Whether you live in a home, condo, or apartment, there are times when you may be subjected to trespassing neighbors. Although there are trespassing laws to protect residents, it can be frustrating to deal with a situation where a neighbor keeps trespassing.
Many people have horror stories about neighbors who have no respect for boundaries. Although you may have an idea in your mind of what trespassing is, do you know how it’s defined by law?
The legal definition of trespassing is entering someone’s property without permission when they know the property is not theirs. Interestingly, there are instances of trespassing in criminal and tort law. Under tort law, a property owner can sue a trespasser in civil court to recover damages sustained. They may also receive compensation for any injuries suffered as a result of the trespasser. The property owner must prove the person knowingly trespassed onto their property with malicious intent, causing direct injury to the property owner in some form.
Trespassing under criminal law is a little different. While the trespasser under tort law infringes on the property owner’s rights to enjoy the benefits they have as a property owner, criminal charges may be assessed against someone who knowingly interferes with the property owner’s legal property rights. For instance, if someone knowingly goes onto a neighbor’s land to hunt and avoids all signs and notifications to keep out, this would be punishable under the legal definition of the law.
Walking on someone’s grass could be considered trespassing, but this would fall under the civil lawsuit category. The police can issue a ticket, but it is up to the property owner to take matters further and pursue legal action.
What To Do If Someone Is Trespassing On Your Property
The first action would be to talk to your neighbor and give them a chance to resolve the issue. Of course, it should be a structured conversation to avoid escalation, but some neighbors live for drama. Before you even think about speaking with the neighbor, have you introduced yourself? Do you have a good rapport? If not, you should prioritize getting to know your neighbor before taking the next step.
You may want to catch them and invite them for tea, dinner, or a simple conversation while outside in the garden to show you are not being hostile but would like them to stop trespassing on your property. During the conversation, it’s important to be non-confrontational. This could very well be a simple misunderstanding, and they weren’t aware they were trespassing onto your property. Make sure you are clear on boundary lines, down to the legal description. You may want to mark the boundaries with paint or something else to ensure there is no question of whether the neighbor is trespassing on your property.
As neighbors, you should care about your relationship, but you have rights under US/UK trespass law. As the property owner, it’s understandable if you wish to keep your property private, and getting stressed out about how to keep neighbors out of your yard shouldn’t be on your daily to-do list. It could very well be a situation where the neighbor truly doesn’t know they are being a nuisance or activities around their home are causing a disturbance for you.
Here are a few things you can do when someone is trespassing on your property:
- Consider the issues
What’s going on behind the scenes? Is it kids playing in your yard? Your neighbor may have a history of disregarding other people’s land. You may want to put up a “no trespassing” sign that is large enough to read and place it in an area that would be hard to miss. In certain states, you should have more than one along your property line and at every entry onto your land. These regulations differ based on state, so it’s important to determine what you can, cannot, and must do when putting up these types of signs. This is one step that can be taken to see if that would alleviate taking other measures, especially if you’ve taken the time to have a conversation.
- Issue a neighbor trespassing letter
When you have a situation where you have filed a complaint advising the police the neighbor keeps coming onto your property, a good rule of thumb would be to issue a neighbor a trespassing letter. This official letter would outline how and when they trespassed on the land against your wishes. This documentation is needed in the event legal action needs to be taken.
- Create a barrier
When running into issues with neighbors trespassing on your property, you can place a barrier of sorts to ensure they cannot access your property. This could be a strong fence of wood, stone or metal, or shrubbery to provide privacy. When you have a barrier up, it indicates to others that you would prefer they stay off your property unless invited. Although it is your land, some municipalities have regulations on what types of shrubbery you can use and how high your barrier can be. It’s important to check and find out before you make the investment and have to take or cut it down.
Having security cameras to record and log when the neighbor trespasses on your property will provide a stronger defense for your complaint if you have to seek legal action. You may use a battery-powered security camera, 4K security camera, or solar-powered security camera on the market to ensure the camera works around the clock, with or without electricity. Surveillance cameras work with motion detection and can be set to send alerts to a mobile device when activity is going on and you are not on the property. All three security cameras can provide the proof you need to move forward by showing your neighbor the video and coming to a resolution or going to the authorities.
- Install lighting
While powerful lighting may not work during daylight hours, it will help keep trespassers off your property after dark. If a neighbor has ill intentions, chances are they don’t want to be seen. Motion-sensor lights around the exterior of your property could work as a deterrent. No one wants to get caught on a property where signs and other items establish boundary rules.
- Control access points
Do you have more than one way to enter your property? You may consider having security gates at each entry point to deter trespassers. Most states consider entry without permission unlawful if a property is fenced in. Additionally, if someone is trespassing on your property unknowingly, you could be liable if the person is injured in some way.
- Get a mediator
A professional mediator can be hired to resolve the issue when an initial conversation and other tactics don’t work. A mediator is one of the last steps to consider before filing a criminal or civil claim against your neighbor. In some cases, this may work. In others, legal action would be the best solution.
Understanding The Laws
The laws in each country differ. Trespassing can be considered a crime in each place, but there are other factors to consider.
For instance, in the United States, trespassing is breaking the law, but it depends on where the trespassing takes place to determine how serious of an infraction. In some states, it is considered a misdemeanor, but in others, it is considered a felony. It all comes down to the situation and whether the person was intentionally trespassing on the property. In accidental circumstances, it is not illegal, but where there is malicious intent, it is.
Is Trespassing A Crime In the UK, and Can You Be Prosecuted For Trespassing in England?
In the UK, trespassing is illegal if the person is a settler, but it becomes a civil matter where the owner will have to bring a claim against the person when they violate their land space. In the case of a neighbor, the neighbor must notify the property owner in writing when they will be accessing their property for basic preservation works, such as making repairs to their property that may cause them to go onto their neighbor’s land. In England, if a claim is brought against the trespasser by the owner of the land, the trespasser can be prosecuted if found guilty.
There are some exceptions:
- If a person has willfully damaged the land, threatened the property owner in some way, or failed to adhere to directions in not returning to the land, they can be found guilty in criminal law.
- A person cannot be tried for trespassing if they have a license to enter by law, justification by an easement, necessity, or permission from the police. If there are damages, the property owner can sue in civil court.
How To Deal With Trespassers
If it is a persistent problem, you may find the neighbor has a history of trespassing. When they continuously violate your private property, police intervention may be warranted. If they continue to ignore your warning and you have to get a lawyer and seek legal action, you could be awarded compensation for your trouble. If you have a business, trespassers could affect your products and services, costing you time and money.
Dealing with stubborn trespassers can quickly get out of hand, to the point where they become the aggressor out of spite. In today’s climate, if things are going awry, the best course of action would be to see professional help from the police or a lawyer. Although this is the last resort, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just because they’re your neighbor doesn’t mean they won’t have ill intentions.
Even when you feel your property is being violated, consider your main gripes. Are they throwing trash on your property? Allowing animals to roam wild and use your land as their bathroom facility? Are kids using your property as their playground? Are activities taking place in your backyard that you aren’t aware of? All of these gripes must be considered, especially if mediation, police, or legal action takes place. It will be up to you to prove your neighbor is being reckless on your property and their intentions are deliberate. Taking the right measures will always reap the best results.
It is perfectly natural to want privacy, especially when you have worked hard to become a property owner and take pride in maintaining your lawn. The goal is to resolve the matter amicably and gain a nice neighbor. It’s easy to assume things will go left, but having a great perspective in resolving the matter with your neighbor may prove to be great. You’ll build a relationship with your neighbor and benefit from no more trespassing.
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