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Physical Invasion of a Neighbor's Property

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What Is ?Physical Invasion of a Neighbor?s Property??

Physical invasion of a neighbor’s property occurs where one landowner’s use of their property causes an adjacent landowner to be deprived of their enjoyment of their own property. In most cases physical invasion of the property of another is considered to be trespass, since it involves the intrusion of a physical object onto the other person’s land.

Occasionally, even even lawful activities on one's own land may be considered invasion of neighboring property if the use is considered to be unreasonable. Unreasonable use of land or property occurs where the adjoining owner is significantly deprived of their ability to use or enjoy their own land.

Is Physical Invasion Considered to Be Trespass or Nuisance?

The legal principle of trespass is very similar to that of nuisance. However, there are some major differences between the two. 

1) Physical Invasion: Trespass usually involves some physical object that intrudes onto the other person’s property. It deals more with the loss of physical possession and control of some or part of the land, rather than the owner’s ability to use or enjoy their property. Some courts have held that minute particles such as chemical fumes may constitute trespass; however, in most cases trespass must involve a physical object. 

2) Non-physical Interference: Nuisance, on the other hand, need not always involve a physical object. Nuisance can involve the intrusion of non-physical objects, such as fumes, air-borne pollution, offensive odors, or even loud sounds or music. Thus, nuisance has more to do with the owner’s loss of ability to use or enjoy their land, rather than the physical loss of property possession.  

Thus, laws governing physical invasion of the property of another are likely to be classified under trespass laws. However, many cases of property disputes may involve both trespass and nuisance, depending on the nature of the intrusion.

What Are Some Examples of Physical Invasion of Neighboring Property?

Physical invasion of property usually involves some form of activity that interferes with the other property owner’s rights to possession and enjoyment of their land. Some common examples include:

  • Persons, objects, or things that are constantly protruding onto the neighbor’s property, which the owner has some control over
  • Runoff from water or streams that physically damage the neighbor’s property
  • Debris or scraps from construction projects entering the property
  • Objects falling or dropping onto the other person’s land
  • Depositing trash or scraps onto the neighbor’s yard

When Are Physical Invasions Legally Actionable?

In order for a physical invasion to be legally actionable, and thus allow one to recover damages, the affected landowner must generally prove that the physical invasion is substantial, continuous, and unreasonable. Of these factors, perhaps the most important is that the intruding activity be continuous

For example, a one-time intrusion of a pet onto a neighbor’s property may not be considered continuous enough to constitute a violation. However, if the owner of the pet constantly allows the pet onto the neighbor’s land, it may be grounds for recovery in a court of law.

What Are the Consequences of Physical Invasion of Neighbor's Property?

A party that is found liable for physical invasion of property may become subject to several legal consequences.  The victim in such circumstances may be entitled to the following legal remedies:

  • Compensatory Damages: Recovery of costs for losses associated with property damage
  • Injunction: An injunction ordering the offending party to cease their physically intrusive activities
  • Special Damages: This cover other types of damages connected with the party’s trespass onto property

Also, it is common for the offender to have to pay fines if their activity has violated some a zoning or environmental hazard law. They may even be subject to criminal penalties if their act was performed with criminal intent. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Property rights are highly protected under state and federal laws. If you are involved in a claim for invasion of neighboring property, you may wish to consult with a property of real estate lawyer for advice and representation. If you are the property owner whose rights have been violated, your attorney can help you obtain recovery in a court of law. Similarly, if are being accused of invasion of property, your lawyer can help defend you in court and can determine whether any defenses may be available for you. 

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-27-2015 06:08 PM PDT

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