This is TEL-LAW Tape #6078 What is trespassing? Trespassing is the violation of another person’s property rights. Often signs that read “no trespassing” are posted along the boundaries of open land. This means you’re being notified by the landowner not to enter his land without his permission. “No trespassing” signs are usually posted to satisfy the requirements of a statute—that is, a legal regulation—making it a misdemeanor crime to enter into real property—land—belonging to another person without his permission. Your boundaries must be posted with these notices at intervals of not more than 660 feet on or near the boundary line. Signs reading “posted, keep out” have the same effect. Acts of trespass may or may not be crimes. If you land is properly marked according to the trespass statute, the trespass is criminal and you may file a complaint with the police. Even if your property is not properly marked, you may file a complaint for trespass if your property is in an incorporated area and is fenced or bounded in such a manner that one should reasonably know his entry is unauthorized. You may also have a civil action for damages if someone interferes with your right of possession of the land. Recovery of a landowner for damages caused by a person trespassing on his pasture might be only a few cents, unless he can prove actual damages, such as the cost to repair a broken fence or gate caused by the trespasser. Even if a landowner might be able to recover only a few cents in damages for a trespass to his land, it’s still important that he consider taking that action. If you suffer repeated violations of your property rights without filing an action for damages for trespass, you may give the trespasser some important rights to your property. If you allow a neighbor to continually use a portion of your land as a driveway without your consent and against your will, for instance, and if you fail to stop the neighbor’s trespass by appropriate action, then after a period of ten years your neighbor would have what is called a servitude to continue to make a driveway in your land even if you do decide later to file suit. In other words you’ve given him the legal right to keep using your land. If an action isn’t filed or some acknowledgement obtained within the time period the law requires, then it is too late to take action because of a time limit called prescription. If people who are actually living on your land without permission are not evicted and you let them occupy and use it for a period of years, and if they meet certain other legal conditions, it is possible for you to lose the title to your land under the “Doctrine of Adverse Possession”. This means simply that they now have right to a portion of your land since they’ve lived on it and used it for some time. Getting surveys to locate your boundaries, erecting fences on boundaries, and using signed written licenses when you do permit a neighbor to use a portion of your land are ways to protect against possible trespasses. Problems involving trespasses or possible trespasses particularly where boundary lines are in question can be extremely technical. If you think you have a problem, you should immediately consult your attorney. Unguided actions can have just the opposite effect you want. One of the worst steps a landowner can take in some cases is to post a sign reading “no trespassing.” Such a sign can help a neighbor satisfy one of the legal requirements to a later claim of title: that his trespasses were against the owner’s consent. So see your attorney first, if you think your rights are being violated.