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Legal How-To: Keeping Trespassers Off Your Property

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Property owners often want to know how to keep trespassers off their land, while keeping themselves on the right side of the law.

While there are many effective ways to keep trespassers away, land owners could potentially be held liable if their efforts at property protection cross the line.

Here is a look at some of the most common legal ways to keep out trespassers:

1. Signs.

The classic "No Trespassing" or "No Trespassers" sign does not change the fact that knowingly trespassing onto private property is generally illegal. However, since most state laws require that a trespasser knowingly or intentionally enter someone's private property, a sign is most effective in providing notice.

There is no magic language to warning potential trespassers that the area beyond a sign is private property, but something straightforward like "Private Property: No Entry" should do the trick.

2. Fences.

Although cowboys and romantics don't want to be fenced in, fences are both a practical and legal way to mark the boundaries of your property and keep unwanted guests out.

Keep in mind when considering any sort of fencing to both consult the local fencing ordinances in your city or county and to consult with your neighbors. Getting neighbors' permission prior to building a fence can save you a whole heap of trouble in the future.

3. No Traps.

Booby traps, trip wires, bear traps, bamboo tiger pits, and other devices intended to ensnare, harm, or potentially kill trespassers are at best a legal liability -- and at worst, the basis for criminal charges.

Many states have outlawed these trespasser countermeasures, and even if there's no explicit criminal law banning them, they present a huge risk for injuring or killing unexpected guests on your property.

4. Cameras.

Most security cameras available to consumers are legal and a somewhat expensive way to keep watch on and deter trespassers.

Just make sure that you install security cameras that record only video -- no audio -- or you could potentially be violating state and federal laws.

5. Calling the Cops.

One of the simplest ways to get some sense of security if you're worried about potential trespassers is to call the police when you suspect a trespasser.

Although it might be more difficult to get a quick response in more rural areas, having the police investigate relieves a homeowner of many of the risks and liabilities of sussing out the trespasser him or herself. Plus, as a homeowner, you pay plenty in taxes. Put your tax money to good use, and be smart about keeping trespassers off your property.

Need More Help?

To learn more about your rights to possess and use your property, check out FindLaw's comprehensive section on Real Estate Law. For guidance about property rights and how to keep trespassers away in your specific situation, consider consulting an experienced real estate lawyer near you.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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