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How to Keep Someone Off Your Property Legally in the UK

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated July, 29, 2022

Property owners in the UK, at one point or another, may face issues protecting their land from intrusion.

If you’re wondering how to keep someone off your property legally in the UK, read on.

What Is Trespassing?

Trespassing is the act of illegally entering another person’s property or staying at the property against the owner’s, and in some cases, the tenant’s will.

For example, wandering onto another’s personal land from a public footpath, regardless of whether it’s intentional or not, is considered trespassing. 

You could also commit trespassing if you’re invited onto the property but refuse to leave after being asked by the owner or you place something on another person’s land (for example, a car).

Trespassing laws can vary from one municipality to another, but in most cases, first-time offenders are charged with a misdemeanour (provided that the owner takes legal action).

However, if the trespasser causes damage to the property or puts the owner in a position where they’re concerned for their safety, such as in cases of burglary or vandalism, they may be charged with a felony.

Is Trespassing a Crime in the UK?

Trespassing in itself is not a criminal offence. It is more of a civil issue, or what’s known as a tort in legal terminology, but there are certain forms of trespassing that are covered by criminal law. 

Trespass can be considered criminal if the person:

  • Disrupts or obstructs people attempting to carry out a lawful activity in the area (aggravated trespass).
  • Unlawfully occupies an uninhabited place (squatters).
  • Entered the property as a hunt saboteur.
  • Is attending (or preparing) for a rave.

Most of these are prohibited under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (sections 61 and 62). Squatting is also unlawful under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012’s Section 144.

Trespassing Laws in the UK: Can Police Remove Trespassers?

Since trespass on private property is a civil matter, rather than a criminal, the police, generally, do not have the power to arrest trespassers for trespassing solely. 

That said, some laws that deal with trespassing on private property in the UK (not buildings) give the police the authority to order intruders to leave when they have cause to believe that the trespasser has arrived with the intent to occupy them.

They can arrest trespassers if they are exhibiting threatening or abusive behaviour toward the land or the people who are lawfully occupying it at the time, or if they have more than six vehicles on the land.

Police can also help to remove trespassers from private property at the owner’s request, but they’re still required under the law to first ask the trespasser to leave voluntarily. If the trespasser refuses, the police can use reasonable force to remove them from the premises.

This is usually done by licensed Enforcement Officers who know what they can and cannot do.

How to Deal With Trespassers in the UK

Trespassing can be a complicated matter and to deal with it properly, you’ll have to familiarise yourself with the rules.

Here’s what you can do if someone is trespassing on a property you own.

Claim for Nuisance

You can bring forth a nuisance claim if you or your land are affected by someone else’s unreasonable use of land

There are many different examples of nuisance, including nuisance caused by smells, leaks, noise, encroaching tree branches and even escaping cricket balls. 

If the court finds that your claim valid, it will order the trespasser to leave or stop the activity that caused the nuisance. You may even be able to claim for any loss that you have suffered, which would usually include physical damage to the property.

Squatters

A squatter is someone who occupies a piece of residential property with no legal claim on it and without permission. 

Squatting is a criminal offence that’s punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to £5,000 fine.

A trespass can only turn into squatting if the person entered the property with the intent of living there, knowing they had no right to do so. However, if you’re renting a property and you’re falling behind on your payments, you won’t be considered a squatter. 

Boundary Disputes

Boundary disputes are common among neighbours who share a wall, fence, or access to an outdoor area.

If you can’t find common ground with your neighbours, you can apply to get your title corrected, which can help your case in a dispute, or get a boundary agreement with your neighbour about what belongs to who.

Using Reasonable Force

If you’ve asked a trespasser to leave your property and they refused, you are entitled to use reasonable force to remove them. The tricky part is– there is no single answer as to what is considered reasonable. It always depends on the circumstances of the situation. 

How to Keep Trespassers Off Your Land?

Here’s what you need to know and do to keep trespassers off of your property.

  • Know your land: The boundary lines of your property have to match its legal description. If you believe there’s a mistake in the title plan, you can apply to have it corrected. Understanding where your property starts and ends will save you the legal troubles you might face if you go beyond the boundary line.
  • Control access to your land: If there are any points of entry onto your property that can’t be easily monitored, you can install a fence or gate that will signal to others that the area is privately owned. You can also put up a sign to warn people not to enter your property.
  • Meet your neighbours: If you have a good relationship with your neighbours, they’ll be more likely to keep an eye on your property and let you know if they see anything.

What You Shouldn’t Do

While UK law allows property owners to take measures to prevent trespassers from entering their land, there are things that you can and cannot do. Contrary to popular belief, property owners need to ensure that trespassers do not come to any harm should they enter the property. 

This means that you can’t lay traps for trespassers and you’ll have to make sure that any hazard on your property offers some protection. 

For adult trespassers, a sign and a fence might be enough, but if you know that children, who might not be able to read the signs, trespass on your property, you shouldn’t leave any toxic weed killers or sharp tools laying around. 

In these cases, you might have to pay compensation for any injuries.

Bottom Line 

If you own a property and you often find yourself in a situation when someone trespasses on your land, you should familiarise yourself with the dos and don’ts of dealing with trespassers. 

As the owner, you can ask anyone to leave your property, but if they refuse, it’s best to call the police and let them handle it. 

                           

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

What happens if you get caught trespassing in the UK?

If you’re caught trespassing, you will likely be asked to leave. The owner is unlikely to take you to court if the trespass wasn’t intentional. If you’re trespassing with intent, the act might fall under criminal law and you could be arrested and charged with a crime.

Can I physically remove someone from my property in the UK?

If someone trespasses on your property, the best thing to do is ask them to leave. If they refuse, you are allowed to use reasonable force to get them to leave.

Can someone enter your property without permission in the UK?

In the UK, it is illegal to enter someone else’s property without their permission.

How to deal with trespassing neighbours in the UK?

If you’re wondering how to keep someone off your property legally in the UK, you can start by fencing your property. You could also build a wall and put up ‘Private Property’ or ‘No Trespassing’ signs.

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.