If you deliberately or carelessly do something that directly interferes with someone else’s land, you are trespassing. It is not usually a crime, but is a civil wrong, and you can be sued for doing it even if you did not cause any damage by trespassing.
The most common example of trespassing is when you go onto someone’s land without their permission. It is also trespassing to dump rubbish on someone else’s land. Land includes everything above and below the ground, so you might be trespassing if you burrow under someone else’s land.
To bring an action against someone for (1) Going onto someone’s land without permission. (2) Trespass to goods is wrongful interference with someone’s personal property, for example doing something that harms someone’s computer. (3) Trespass to the person is doing something that interferes with a person’s body without their permission, for example giving a very drunk person a tattoo., you have to show that you have a right to exclusive (1) Having control over property. Possession is not the same as ownership. For example, a bicycle you have borrowed from a friend is in your possession but you do not own it. (2) Having illegal drugs on your person or property. (rather than ownership) of the land on which the trespass occurred.
Signs that have the words ‘Trespassers A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. be prosecuted’ written on them are not strictly accurate. Technically you can only be prosecuted if you commit a crime.
The SO A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. (s 9) deals with trespassing. A person can be guilty of trespassing if they:
- trespass in a ‘public place’ and neglect or refuse to leave after being warned;
- enter a ‘private place’ or ‘scheduled public place’ without express authority unless for a legitimate purpose; or
- neglect or refuse to leave a ‘private place’ or a ‘scheduled public place’ after being given a warning and do not have a lawful excuse.
The terms ‘public place’ and ‘scheduled public place’ are defined in section 3 of the SO Act.
What you can do
You are allowed to eject a person who comes onto your land without your permission. You must not use any more force than is reasonably necessary to do this. Obviously, you should first ask the person to leave before you consider any more drastic action. If you use too much force, you may be guilty of assault and could be committing a crime or be sued for A court order for money to be paid to someone to compensate them for a loss suffered as a result of a civil wrong or breach of contract. For example, a person who caused a serious permanent injury to another person can be ordered by the court to pay damages that compensate the injured person for their loss of income from being unable to work. See also aggravated damages; compensatory damages; general damages; liquidated damages; nominal damages; special damages. for any injuries the ‘trespasser’ suffers as a result of your actions.
What a An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. can do
If you can convince a court that someone has trespassed on your property, it can order the trespasser:
- to stop trespassing now, and to never trespass again (this is called an A court order that directs a person to do, or not to do, something. For example, a court can order a developer not to demolish a historic building. An injunction may be interim (operative until further order) or perpetual (continuing indefinitely).); and/or
- to pay you compensation.
If a trespasser claims to be entitled to stay on your land, you can ask the court to decide if this claim is Legally binding or effective. and, if it is not, to give you a ‘writ’ for possession.
When you can trespass
If someone sues you for trespass you may have a (1) A defendant’s response to the legal claims made against them in court by a prosecutor or plaintiff. (2) A lawful excuse for conduct: for example, causing minor injuries to someone while saving them from certain death. (3) ‘The defence’ is also a way of referring to the defendant and their legal team. if any of the following has occurred:
- you were on the land with the permission of the person who is suing you;
- you have been authorised by some law to go onto the land (see ‘Officials on your land’, below);
- you have gone onto the land to stop a Doing something that stops another person fully using and enjoying land they own or occupy. For example, someone burning off smelly rubbish in their backyard might ruin a neighbour’s enjoyment of their garden. See also private nuisance; public nuisance. (see ‘Nuisance’, above); or
- you have gone onto the land to get back goods that belong to you. This only applies if the goods have been put there by or with the help of the person on the land or someone who has stolen the goods.
Officials on your land
The law allows some people to come onto your land without your permission.
Police are allowed onto your land if they have a A document issued by a court directing an officer to take certain action. May be a warrant of apprehension, directing that a person be arrested and brought before a court; a warrant of commitment, directing that a person be arrested and imprisoned; a warrant of distress, directing that a person’s goods be seized to satisfy a debt; or a warrant of seizure and sale of real estate., which they should show you when seeking entry to your land. If they don’t have a warrant, they may only enter your land if you invite them, or if particular circumstances arise, such as making an To seize a person suspected of breaking the law and hold them in custody. Police have powers to arrest and charge suspected offenders and bring them before a court., stopping a breach of the peace or ensuring that the SO Act is being complied with (see ‘Power to search without warrant’ in Chapter 3.5: Arrest, search, The asking of questions. In criminal cases, the questioning of suspects by police. In civil proceedings, a pre-hearing process in which one party asks the other party a series of written questions, called interrogatories, which must be answered on oath. and your rights).
Meter readers and others
Gas, water and electricity meter readers, post office officials, health officers, and council officers are also allowed to come onto your property. All of these people should show you some proof of identity and are allowed onto your land only for specific purposes related to their jobs.
Licensed surveyors (and people acting under their A legally proper instruction by one person (or body) to another, so that the person is bound to take action, or make a decision, as instructed. Compare dictation. and supervision) are also permitted onto your land for the purpose of carrying out a survey. Even then, there are restrictions as to giving notice and the time at which entry is permitted.
The fire brigade can come onto your property and do whatever it thinks is necessary to stop a fire, including deliberately damaging your property. No one else is allowed to cause any damage to your property.