What Property Owners Need to Know About Trespassing

If you own property, you have the authority to give or deny permission to others to enter and remain on your land. This is called the right to exclude. A trespass is any action that violates your right to exclude others from your property. This is especially true if the trespass was deliberate, i.e., if the person doing the trespassing knows that he or she does not have permission to be on your property and remains anyway.

Is Trespassing a Civil or Criminal Offense?

Every state has different laws determining what constitutes a civil trespass and what is required for a criminal one. Therefore, the classification of the specific offense depends on the circumstances surrounding it. If it is a civil offense, you can file a lawsuit and seek damages from the person who committed the trespass if some harm resulted. For a criminal offense, you can press charges.

How Can You Communicate a Warning Against Trespassing?

For charges of criminal trespass especially, the law requires that you send a warning in some way that the property is off-limits. Some people choose to do this in a very direct, concrete manner by posting a sign that expressly says “No Trespassing.” However, in the eyes of the law, you do not necessarily need to be so explicit. You can send a similar warning by locking the door to the property or putting a fence around it.

What Is a “License” as It Relates to Trespass Law?

In this context, a person has a “license” to be on your property when you give him or her permission to be there. This type of license is usually oral rather than written out. The license is valid as long as the individual still has your permission to be on your property. However, if you withdraw your permission and tell the individual to leave, the individual becomes a trespasser if he or she refuses to comply with your wishes.

Does Someone Have to Physically Enter the Property to Commit a Trespass?

If someone does not physically set foot on the property but causes something else to enter it, e.g., by flooding the property or throwing things over the boundary, that is a form of trespass because it violates your right to exclude. The same right to exclude others from your property also extends below the ground and above the surface, which means that if someone were to fly a plane too low over your property or reach it by digging a hole and tunneling, it could still qualify as a trespass.Contact a real estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, like from Hoegen & Associates, P.C., if you believe someone has trespassed on your property. An attorney can explain your rights to you.

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