What is trespass to land?
At its simplest, it is intentionally entering on to a person’s land without permission.
Trespass to land takes many forms and can range from someone walking over your garden; squatting on land or in a property; encroaching over your boundary with a fence or building; or even fly-tipping on your land. Unfortunately, it can cause serious issues for some people and often between neighbours.
Is it a criminal offence?
In the main, no. Trespass is what is known as a tort – this means a type of civil wrongdoing.
However, in certain circumstances, there may also be a criminal offence. For example, where a person threatens you with violence as they walk over your land, or causes criminal damage. Further, squatting in residential property is a criminal offence and can lead to a prison sentence of up to 6 months and/or a £5000 fine.
What can I do about it?
There are a number of different remedies available and the appropriate remedy will depend upon the circumstances of the trespass.
One remedy for trespass is the award of compensation or damages. This will be appropriate in cases where the trespass has caused you financial loss. For example, if someone has encroached on your land and this has affected the value of the property.
In some cases, the Court will award nominal damages. Nominal damages are small sums that are awarded where there has been a trespass, but you have not suffered any actual loss. In other cases, claimants choose to proceed without including a request for damages as part of their claim.
Injunctions are orders of the Court to do or stop doing an act. As such, they can be very useful in trespass claims.
If someone keeps walking over your land to access someone else’s land without your permission, you may be able to apply to the Court for an injunction preventing him from continuing to do so. On the other hand, if someone continually dumps rubbish on your land, it may be appropriate to apply to the Court for an injunction to make the person remove the rubbish.
The Court has a discretion as to whether it should order an injunction, and will not, for example, order someone to do something which is disproportionate. By way of an example, if someone has built their conservatory partly over your boundary, the Court may not feel it appropriate to order that they knock down the entire conservatory. The Court may, instead, make a declaration that the neighbour has encroached over your boundary, and also order that you are awarded damages to compensate you for the land you have lost.
Sometimes trespass occurs where someone occupies your premises without permission (often known as ‘squatting’). Common examples are where people move into empty houses, or set up camp on large areas of land.
In these circumstances, you may need to issue possession proceedings against the occupiers. Unfortunately, in these scenarios, you may not know who the occupiers are. This means bringing proceedings against ‘Persons Unknown’.
The Court will often deal with these types of claim very quickly. Once the Court has made the possession order, you can apply for an appointment for a bailiff to evict the trespassers.
Finally, there are other options if the trespass is caused by someone fly-tipping on your land.
With fly-tipping, again, unfortunately you may not know who the perpetrator is. As well as the above remedies, your local authority may be able to help you with fly-tipping issues. The Council will remove dumped rubbish from roads, pavements or its own land. Further, they will investigate reports of fly-tipping on private land and work with you to ensure it is removed.
Trespass in its various forms can be rather distressing for the people involved. Our property disputes team is experienced in dealing with all types of trespass. Call today on 0113 244 9931 for a free initial consultation.