While people trespassing on your land may seem like a minor annoyance, trespassers can pose special liability risks to property owners. Because property owners may owe frequent trespassers a duty to warn of existing artificial conditions that could cause serious injury or death, it is helpful to learn how to sue for trespass should the need arise.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Understand the basic law of civil trespass. Civil trespass is committed when an individual intentionally enters the land of another without lawful excuse. Generally, the property owner may sue for trespass even if no harm was done.
Consider alternatives before filing a lawsuit. Posting "no trespassing" signs or erecting fences may eliminate the problem. You can also ask the trespassers to leave and call the police for assistance if they refuse. Certain jurisdictions also provide for restraining orders to prevent future trespasses.
File a complaint. If preventative measures were unsuccessful, you can file a civil action against the trespasser. Your local courthouse can provide assistance in preparing the complaint. Generally, you will need to identify the trespasser and set forth the circumstances giving rise to the trespass.
Ask for injunctive relief and damages. Injunctive relief is an order by the court prohibiting any further trespasses. This allows you to seek enforcement and contempt of court if the order is violated. Money damages allow you to recover for the harm, if any, caused by the trespass.
Go to court. Appear in court on the date directed by the court. Be prepared to testify in support of the statements made in your complaint. Present any witnesses on your behalf or any other evidence in support of your claim.
Tips and warnings
- It may be helpful to speak with an experienced property law attorney if you have any questions regarding how to sue for trespass or your rights as a property owner.
- Don't delay. Be aware that the doctrine of adverse possession provides that if a trespass is actionable and no action is taken within certain time limits, the property owner may lose the right to seek a remedy or may even surrender property rights.