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Who Can Sue — Or Be Sued — For Trespass?

TRESPASS LAWS PROTECT THE RIGHT TO POSSESSION OF LAND.

Trespass claims are designed to protect possessory interests — the right to possess and control real property (usually land, but also buildings and fixtures on the land). A person who has the right to possess and control real property generally has standing to sue for trespass, meaning he or she has the right to bring a trespass claim relating to the land.

People who are actually in possession of land are also generally allowed to sue third parties for trespass in proper circumstances, even if the possessor does not own the land or cannot produce evidence of ownership.

Since the key to trespass is “possession,” California courts have held that people wrongfully in possession of land can sometimes sue to stop other people from intruding (trespassing) on the land and interfering with the plaintiff’s possession – even when the plaintiff is not the rightful owner and, sometimes, even when the person against whom the trespass claim is brought is the owner of the land.

WHAT REMEDIES DOES A LAND OWNER HAVE AGAINST A PERSON WRONGFULLY IN POSSESSION OF HIS OR HER LAND?

Land owners who are not in actual possession of their property may have a variety of claims against a person who wrongfully takes possession of the land (for example, a squatter), including:

1. Trespass (under proper circumstances only).

2. A damages claim for damage done to the land by the wrongful possessor.

3. An ejectment action, asking the court to remove the wrongful possessor from the land.

4. A quiet title action, asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment naming the proper owner as the person who owns (and has the right to possess and control) the land.

5. In some circumstances, a forcible detainer action – but generally only where the person wrongfully in possession of the land is using threats to keep the owner away, or where the wrongful entry occurred at night or while the true owner was away from the land.

If someone has wrongfully entered or taken control of your property, and you or someone else is in immediate danger, call the police – do not attempt to resolve the situation by force. 

If someone has trespassed on your property, consult an experienced attorney immediately for an evaluation of your legal rights. Delay could impact not only your claims, but your legal rights as well.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR, ROSS LAW, OR THIS WEBSITE AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Trespass claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a trespass claim, have had a trespass claim asserted against you, or are involved in any other type of legal claim or matter, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.

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