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Trespassers and Public Liability

by Dave Collins on December 15, 2016

Trespassers and Public Liability

It hardly seems fair that trespassers can sue a business for negligence, but any person who is injured on your property is entitled to a hearing and often a settlement. How can you fight these trespassers to minimize your risk of paying a liability claim to a loiterer on your property? Simple signage, verbally warning offenders, calling the police and fencing your property are a few ways to keep trespassers from loitering. Let’s look at each of these a little more closely.

Post Signs

The first way to warn trespassers to stay off your property is to post signs. “No Trespassing”, “No Loitering” and state law signs can help you enforce a no trespassing regulation on your business property. These signs serve as a first warning, and they can go a long way toward influencing police officers to remove frequent offenders from your property at a later date.

Give Offenders a Verbal Warning

If you notice trespassers or loiterers on your property, you may issue a verbal warning. Simply informing them of your policy and pointing to the signs may be effective, but you may wish to escort them to the edge of your property to ensure they receive the message. In any case, a verbal warning must be issued before a trespassing case will be considered in a court of law.

However, you may find frequent offenders enjoy loitering on your property. In this case, if you see a person or group of people frequently invading your personal property, you may wish to issue a written warning. This may be difficult to accomplish, though, because you cannot detain the trespasser while you prepare the paperwork — loiterers are in their rights to sue for unlawful detention if you try to detain them while you complete the paperwork.

Call the Police

Frequent offenders who will not listen to you may need a visit from the police to get your message across. Be careful to avoid a citizen’s arrest in this situation, because this can also make you subject to a lawsuit. Instead, call the police and wait for their help in removing the trespassers. This will help you remove the offenders while keeping you safe from lawsuit.

Fencing Your Property

If your property is subject to many trespassers, such as in the case of an open field, you may wish to erect fencing. The fence serves as an initial sign that trespassers are not welcome, enables you to place signs is more visible places, and deters potential trespassers from crossing your property. Also, a fenced area is easier to defend as personal property than a vacant lot in a court of law.

Overall, if you have problems with trespassers, defending your property can be as simple as posting signs, warning offenders, calling the police and fencing the property. All of these simple steps, however, can go a long way toward minimizing your risk of public liability suits.

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