Notice to the Consumer: Cemeteries are forever

The legal terminology is ‘in perpetuity’.

When it comes to cemeteries that’s how long they must be maintained. In short, cemeteries are forever.

The Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) often deals with individuals or incorporated businesses buying or looking to sell a property with a small cemetery included, or an old church with an adjacent cemetery on the same land title.

Quiet neighbour but … 

A graveyard can make for a quiet neighbour, but owning one comes with legal responsibilities.

Some think they can turn cemetery land into a real estate development. It’s possible to use land on the property outside of the cemetery boundary for other purposes. But you will always have to maintain the cemetery and keep it licensed with the BAO.

That means regular maintenance, including mowing the lawn and keeping a clear path to the cemetery ensuring access for mourners and the public. It’s the law – the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 (FBCSA).

The same rule applies if you find a cemetery on a property. The owner of a property, on which a cemetery is located, is required to become licensed with the BAO and must protect and maintain the cemetery. Plus, as per the FBCSA, cemeteries cannot be disturbed.


Similarly, if you are the seller of a property that includes a cemetery, you must make sure the cemetery is disclosed to a buyer before purchase. The seller is also obligated to tell the prospective buyer that any new owner must become the licensed operator of that cemetery, whether there is room for additional burials or not.

Trust fund

It is also the legal obligation of a cemetery owner/operator to keep a Care and Maintenance Trust Fund, which ensures the cemetery will be maintained for generations in perpetuity.

So, remember that having a cemetery on the property raises a number of obligations and restrictions including inability to build on or alter the property. Since burials are considered to be in perpetuity, a new buyer should not presume that the cemetery can be moved or cancelled.

For more information please contact the BAO at