Suing for trespass can be a complex legal procedure, as trespass may be a civil offence – or a criminal offence if criminal damage is caused to the property or land.
The law defines trespass as “any unjustifiable intrusion by a person upon the land in possession of another”.
Some incidences of trespass – such as illegal gatherings on private land or hunt saboteurs on private land – fall within the scope of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPOA) and public order offences are police matters.
Other types of trespass involve squatting, boundary disputes – or members of the public using private land as a short cut, which may constitute a claim for nuisance.
In these cases, a private owner-occupier can ask the police to direct a trespasser to leave the land if the owner of the land has already asked the trespasser to leave and the trespasser has:
- caused damage to the land
- has six or more vehicles on the land
- has used threatening or abusive behaviour to the occupier of the land, or the occupier’s family, employees or agents.
Once a trespasser has left the land it is an offence to return within three months – and police may even be able to seize any vehicles involved at this stage.
Actions in trespass – Squatters
The government made squatting in a residential building a specific criminal offence under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LAPOA), which means police can become involved in a case of trespass involving squatters if the squatter:
- is in a residential building as a trespasser and entered as a trespasser
- knows – or ought to know – they are trespassing
- is living in the building – or intends to live there – for any period of time.
In actions of trespass, evicting squatters and suing for trespass can be extremely stressful for a displaced householder.
However, squatters are protected from threats and intimidation in the eviction process under The Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
It is therefore vital that householders take expert legal advice in any trespass case involving squatters, to make sure they are not evicted unlawfully as a result of harassment or intimidation, even if the owner of the property did not intentionally mean to harass or intimidate squatters in their home.
Actions in trespass – Boundary Disputes
In boundary disputes, an injunction may be obtained against a neighbour or trespasser to stop the trespass.
The civil court is also able to award damages in some cases of trespass, based on an estimate of financial loss as a result of the trespass – for example, a fall in the value of property as a result of the trespass or as a result of damage caused to the property by trespassers, including trespass on commercial property.
Damages for trespass may also involve a sum for nuisance caused by the trespasser.
LAWTEC Solicitors can advise on making a claim in court for trespass – including assessing the value of any claim for damages and expert advice on taking legal action for trespass, including applying for injunctions and preventing trespass on commercial property.
Making a Claim for Trespass
LAWTEC Solicitors advise landowners or homeowners who are dealing with a situation involving trespass on their land or property to get in touch as soon as possible for advice on how to deal with the situation before it escalates.
LAWTEC Solicitors can advise on whether police involvement may be needed – or whether sending an initial pre-action letter detailing a claim for trespass might be the best way forward, especially if you have already tried to negotiate with trespassers on your property without success.
LAWTEC Solicitors can also advise on alternatives to legal action for trespass, including dispute resolution and mediation.
Funding Legal Action for Trespass
LAWTEC Solicitors offer clients wishing to take legal action for trespass a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) to fund the case.
LAWTEC Solicitors also offers a fixed fee arrangement for the initial assessment of a claim for trespass, so our clients know exactly how much they will be paying from the outset.
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