Keeping trespassers off your land is among the most common problems that landowners face.
While it’s illegal to trespass onto another person’s property without permission, it doesn’t stop people from doing it.
A trespasser is a person who enters or remains on land without the owner’s license or consent.
They can include (but are not limited to) any of the following:
Travelers with caravans, rucks, and vans on large parcels of land
Groups such as drug users, illegal raves, or the homeless occupying buildings as a home
If you’re a little bit lackadaisical in your approach to land ownership, you may wonder, “Why is it necessary to protect my land from trespassers?
If I have a big enough plot, they’re not bothering me, and they’re not doing anyone/anything harm, why should I stop them?”
Well, outside of pure inconvenience, property owners can face legal and financial issues with trespassers.
Here are some of the reasons you want to keep trespassers off your land as a landowner
Trespassers on your property can make it difficult to access certain areas of your land
A trespasser’s car can block your road or driveway.
Protesters or squatters can prohibit construction or demolition from proceeding, causing significant delays and cost penalties.
In very extreme circumstances, when a trespasser becomes a squatter, they may be able to establish a case for adverse possession of your land.
Trespassers may also damage the land
If there is damage to the land from the trespassers, then the landowner will be responsible for all damages.
Damages to structures (hunting blinds, barns, sheds, even homes) following occupation can sometimes be upwards of $100,000.
Trespassers may be injured on the land and hold the landowner liable
In the event that the trespasser is injured, landowners could still be sued (even if they didn’t know the trespasser was there!).
It is up to the landowner to secure their property and take measures against the unlawful occupation.
Given the steep financial and legal consequences that trespassers have, it’s important to understand how to keep trespassers off your land.
In the next section, we’ll discuss the different ways to mark your territory and discourage trespassing.
Here’s what you should know.
How to Keep Trespassers Off Your Land
Know your land
You can’t know if someone is trespassing on your land if you don’t know where your boundaries are.
Take time to roam your land and thoroughly inspect it.
You should walk the boundary lines and make sure they match your legal description.
You can also have your land surveyed if you need help with this.
Mark your land
Marking your land so you know where the boundaries lie is one of the ways you can let trespassers know that they’re on private property.
Most people combine painted boundary lines or trees with no trespassing signs and/or fencing.
Post “No Trespassing” signs on your hunting property
To keep trespassers out under the law, you must make sure that they know that they’re on private land.
Often, this means having signs posted fairly regularly (every 25 to 50 feet) along the property lines.
These “No Trespassing” signs are both a potential deterrent from trespassing and a legal notice to ensure that you can enforce your boundaries if you discover a trespasser and decide to prosecute.
Beware that each state has its own individual regulations on the correct way to post signage on your property.
Do your research ahead of time!
You may also need to register any posting with a local town clerk or land office to have it on record.
This minor inconvenience may seem like a hassle at the moment, but keeping your property protected should always be a priority.
Note: Make sure you hang your “No Trespassing” signs high up.
Limit access points
If someone is determined to get onto your property, the sad reality is that they will likely do it no matter what steps you take.
That said, you can reduce this likelihood by assessing your property and its access points.
Where can someone enter your property? Where is it most vulnerable to trespassers?
Those are the areas where you will need to address.
You can use fences, gates, plants, or other physical barriers to make it more difficult.
You can mark it with paint.
You can also post “No Trespassing” signs at those entrances to make sure they know it is private property.
All of these steps can help deter uninvited guests.
Put up a fence
Fences are an effective physical border and are often used to separate parcels of land even when trespassing isn’t a great concern.
That said, you may need your neighbors’ permission for a fence since it will be bordering their land.
Additionally, unless you’ve had a recent survey, it’s also a smart idea to get your property lines reevaluated before construction begins.
You do not want property lines to be unclear or disputed during and after the fence’s construction.
Finally, all landowners should check on ordinances related to fencing construction in their municipality.
You may require permission or permitting from your local government before you can move forward with the project.
Plant physical barriers
Pun intended! Plant borders can be a great way to separate your property and keep trespassers off your land.
If people cannot see into your property, then you’re one step closer to your much-needed privacy.
Plant barriers are highly dependent on both time horizon and budget.
To create an effective barrier, you can use a combination of trees, shrubs, and warm-season perennial grasses.
Keep in mind that certain plants will lose their foliage during certain times of the year, which means they’re not a long-term solution.
That said, if you’re looking to take care of a problem quickly, then plant some annual grasses like corn, sorghum or millet, or ornamental grasses like pampas grass that also grows fast and tall.
Within several months, you’ll have a visual screen.
Native warm-season grasses – Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, and Indian grass – are great solutions because they grow 6 to 10 feet tall.
Trees are also a must for permanent barriers.
Evergreens and deciduous trees are both choice plants for this purpose.
Use security cameras
Security cameras can deter potential trespassers, especially if they can easily be seen.
You can post signs that security cameras are in use, but some people may only believe that this is a false threat.
The cameras themselves are useful if the trespasser commits vandalism or theft or is injured in an incident.
You’ll have footage to use as evidence if your case is taken to court.
You may also consider “dummy surveillance.”
If you’ve been attempting to capture trespassers for a long time, then you may have a few broken trail cameras stashed away.
While these may not capture any actual footage, they can absolutely be placed in plain sight for anyone and everyone to see as they enter your property.
Naturally, this plan is best put into action when you have working cameras in other spots as well.
Invest in good lighting
Lighting is generally a good deterrent to trespassing.
If a property looks easy to sneak onto, then trespassers may be tempted.
However, if trespassers know they can be seen and there are cameras, then this will likely change their calculus entirely.
Don’t underestimate how this investment can help keep trespassers off your land.
Meet your neighbors
Your neighbors can be some of your greatest resources.
Most people are respectful of your property boundaries if you are of theirs.
So, when you purchase a plot of land, be sure to go around and introduce yourself to all the neighbors.
Tell them what you’re planning to do with the property and that you’re planning to keep a close eye on it.
Especially if you’re planning to hunt on your property, it’s worth letting them know that you intend to respect property boundaries and that you want them to do the same.
With that said, it isn’t often neighbors who trespass on hunting land or the like.
Why would they? If they have their own, why would they come to yours?
Often, those who are trespassing are not local.
As a result, your neighbors may be dealing with trespassers as well, and you can benefit from teaming up.
Create a neighborhood watch or anti-trespassing alliance that helps reduce the occurrence of it in your area.
Keep your hunting property under wraps
If you’re someone who loves to talk about your favorite hunting spot, then you may want to be careful who you’re talking to, in front of, and around.
The word of a huge buck travels fast, and trespassers love to venture onto other people’s hunting land.
Take it from us – the fewer people who know about your hunting property the better!
Keep it within your friends and family and invite them out for personal, private trips to use your land.
Ask for help
If trespassing has become a serious issue on your land, don’t be afraid to ask for help in your local community.
Your forester, legal counsel, and local law enforcement agencies are there to help when things get out of hand.
Seek their advice and ask what additional steps you can take to secure your property.
Remember, you can be found at fault if something happens on your land (even if the trespasser broke the law to get on there!).
Make sure you protect yourself and take the proper precautions.
Warnings are often taken lightly by non-law-abiding citizens.
In fact, you yourself may be an “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” type of person.
If the worst thing you think will happen to you when you trespass is getting yelled at, then you’re likely to do it.
However, if word gets around that people caught on your property are prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law, then trespassing will quickly subside.
We’ve all seen those signs in store dressing rooms, “Shoplifters will be prosecuted.”
If you were thinking about sliding something into your pocket or bag, these signs likely discouraged you.
Even the threat of prosecution will often prevent people from stepping foot on land that they know doesn’t belong to them.
What do you need to prosecute?
If you’re running into the same trespassers again and again, the “No Trespassing” signs may not be doing it for you.
So, catch them yourself!
Some landowners will carry a disposable camera in addition to their cellphone with them at all times.
Your security cameras may be running, but seeing someone in person is a great way to solidify your case against them.
To prosecute, you’ll need:
Photo evidence (courtesy of your security camera, cellphone, or disposable camera)
Name and/or license plate
You may be thinking, “How on Earth am I going to get their name?”
And let’s face it, any “smart” trespasser is unlikely to tell you their real name if you’re threatening to prosecute them.
However, if you’re able to follow them to get their license plate number, then you’ll be able to use that to find out who they are.
Make sure you take photos of any vehicles as well. The more information you have, the better!
Keeping trespassers off your land isn’t impossible, but it does require a solid strategy that you implement from the start of your landownership.
By following the steps below, you can help curb trespassing and keep unwanted individuals off your land.
Have your own story about trespassers?
Let us know in the comments!
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.