How to keep determined trespassers off your land
In an improving market property developers have become far more active than in recent years meaning that, in places, the construction industry is now as busy as ever. With land values in some parts of the country at an all-time high, developers are trying to squeeze every last penny out of the land at their disposal.
Often this means having access to neighbouring land in order to complete developments, and in most cases a licence fee will be negotiated. But what do you do if you turn up on site only to find that your neighbour has trespassed over your land with cranes, diggers or scaffolding to start a development without your consent? The solutions are very effective and often quite easy to obtain.
The starting point is to ensure that the neighbour does not have any rights over the land. These could include a right of way or a right to ownership of the land based on long use. If there are none the next step is to issue a court claim for possession. The claim is then served on the developer and you can expect to obtain an order for possession at a short court hearing. The neighbour will then have a short period of time to vacate your land. If they do not, you can send a court bailiff to remove them.
But what do you do if you suspect that the culprit will trespass again, over another part of your land? In the context of property developments, this can be a very real prospect if you come across a neighbour who is determined to complete their work at all costs.
If you haven't planned for this in advance, you may need a new court order. This can be frustrating and a waste of time and money and so it is preferable to plan from the outset to prevent this.
If you suspect that the neighbour may go on to trespass again, your solicitor can seek an injunction to head this off in advance. Evidence such as planning permission and drawings to show that the development will require further or alternative access from your land will help. The court may then grant an injunction to prevent further trespasses. This can be a very effective way of resolving things at an early stage: if an injunction is granted the trespasser may be held in contempt of court and may be imprisoned or fined if they disobey. It is likely that at this stage a deal will be brokered between the developer and the land owner for future access in exchange for a fee.
This may all sound a bit far-fetched but in reality it does happen. A recent case involved a property owner whose land had been used by a developer, putting up a building site on some parts and oversailing others. The history of the developer's conduct together with their future plans for the development was sufficient to convince the court to grant an injunction to prevent any future trespass. Had the neighbour come forward to negotiate access in the first place this would all have been avoided. The same approach can also be used when dealing with other determined trespassers.
So, if a neighbouring landowner has plans afoot for development it would be wise to make enquiries from the outset about what is to follow. If access to your land is required an appropriate licence fee should be agreed upfront. Otherwise, be ready to take action to get it.