Handling Trespassers

Trespassers are those people who come on to your land without permission; they are not supposed to be there. What can you do about trespassers?

First, you may not deliberately/intentionally or maliciously injure a trespasser. However, you have no legal obligation to a trespasser because he/she does not have permission to be there.

If someone on your property does have permission to be there, your obligations to protect their welfare or warn them of potential dangers are different. See the page on Liability Issues for more information on licensees and invitees.

What To Do

  • Post “No Trespassing” signs on your property. While not required by law in many states, this is a visual reminder to people that your land is private.
  • Consider adding locked gates to entrance roads. If you use a simple cable to block the entrance, make sure it is very visible by using flagging or PVC pipe and/or signage.
  • Make records (photos, video, and/or written) of evidence of a trespasser. A game camera might be the perfect thing to use on a frequently visited spot.
  • Notify your local conservation officer and/or sheriff. Local law enforcement will often recommend additional steps you can take in your area to prevent trespassing and to deal with a repeat offender.

What Not to Do

  • Do NOT willfully or wantonly injure or shoot the trespasser.
  • Do NOT confront the trespasser. Let local law enforcement handle it.

People with Permission to be on Your Land

If you have friends or family coming to your land it’s a good idea to notify visitors of and/or have signs demarcating spots on your land that are dangerous. If you have given someone permission to be on your property or if you are running a business on your property and have paying customers on the land, then you have the obligation to let these people know of any dangers on the property. If you are running a business, it’s also a good idea to obtain general liability insurance to protect you from being sued if an accident occurs on your property. Learn more about your obligation to licensees and invitees by visiting the page on liability Issues for more information.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the need for legal advice from a professional. Seek advice from a lawyer when considering liability issues, leases, waivers, or other legal tools.

Other Publications

Landowner Liability and Recreational Access: Extension Bulletin 357
University of Maryland Extension, 2008

Detailed document that provides information on liability rules, lawsuits, risk management, trespass and property rights, controlling recreational use of your property, controlling a timber trespass, developing a lease hunting eneterprise and more.

 

Recreational Access and Liability: What Landowners Should Know
Clemson University Extension, May 2009

Discusses the responsibility of landowners to different groups of people (invitees, licensees, trespassers) and provides tips to reduce landowner liability.

 

Dealing with Trespassers
Cornell University Extension

Presents information on how to post your property and discusses what will happen if a trespasser gets hurt on your property.

 

Handbook of Flordia Fence and Property Law: Visitors and Responsibilities to Visitors
University of Florida IFAS Extension

This handbook is designed to inform property owners of their rights and responsibilities in terms of their duty to fence. Discussed areas include a property owner's responsibility to fence when livestock is kept on the property, the rights of adjoining landowners to fence, the placement of fences, encroachments, boundary lines, easements, contracts, nuisances, and a landowner's responsibilities towards persons who enter his property.

 

Landowner Liability in Fee-Hunting Enterprises
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 1996

This document discusses the liability of landowners in fee-hunting enterprises, particularly liability and negligence as well as ways to reduce exposure.

 

Rural Landowner Liability For Recreational Injuries: Myths, Perceptions, and Realities (PDF)
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation

This article examines rural landowner liability risk through analysis of the 50 state recreation-use statues intended to protect landowners from legal exposure tied to injuries sustained on their land.