As with any tortious interference with one’s use and enjoyment of property, a trespass can be a disruptive and aggravating event. A trespass is defined as an unprivileged, intentional intrusion upon land in possession of another. Pennsylvania law recognizes a civil cause of action for a trespass as well making it a criminal offense in certain circumstances.
In order to maintain a civil trespass action for any damages suffered as a result of the intrusion, a plaintiff must have had the right to exclusive use and possession of the property at issue. Landowners can only restrict those who have no legal right to use and enjoy the property. Landlords cannot tell tenants or their visitors to leave or stay off real property that has been rented by the tenant.
To keep someone off of your property, Pennsylvania law allows landowners and renters to take certain actions that, if ignored, also subject the perpetrator to criminal as well as civil liability. Pennsylvania law 18 Pa.C.S.A.§3503(b) states that a person commits the crime of defiant trespass if, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given primarily in three ways: 1) by actual communication; 2) a posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of an intruder; or 3) fencing or other enclosures designed to exclude an intruder. This statute applies to both landowners and renters.
Thus, actual notice personally communicated in the presence of a witness satisfies the statute. Mailing or handing a written notice to the offender will also suffice. If mail is used, it is wise to send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. A posted notice in a conspicuous place or restrictive enclosure like a fence is also sufficient.
If an intruder enters your property despite being told to stay away, you should contact the police immediately and inform them that you want to prosecute someone for defiant trespass. IF the person has caused and damages, including damages that stem for interference with your use and enjoyment of your property, you may have a civil cause of action for trespass.
While an offender is typically only guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor, if he or she defies an order to leave personally given and communicated by the property owner or authorized agent, he or she is guilty of a more serious charge, a third-degree misdemeanor.
If you or a loved one has suffered any type of injury resulting from any type of accident, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for all types of legal representation in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. The consultation is FREE and you don’t pay anything unless we win. Our attorneys, past and present, have represented motor vehicle accident victims for 113 years. Call today!