Protecting myself legally regarding trespassing?

thatgirl2478June 8, 2007

Just a bit of background:

Lived in the house 4 years, had it fenced 3 years ago. 6' privacy fence along the alley connecting to the garage and a 4' privacy fence along the driveway connecting the garage and house. The gate is in the 4' section. Garage is unattached and has a manual door with no lock.

Children in the neighborhood (we do not know which ones for sure, but have an idea based on other neighbor feedback) have a habit of throwing/losing balls over our fence. In the past when they used the gate, they neglected to latch it which has led to our dogs getting loose on 2 occasions. So we put a padlock on the gate. Then they started climbing over the fence by using the partially empty 5 gallon paint cans from the garage (door was open, we need to find out how to dispose of the old paint appropriately). Then they escalated to climbing through the garage windows (one wall of the garage has 2 windows that open to the back yard).

Yesterday we discovered that they broke the dog ear pickets off the gate. I contacted the police and had a criminal damages report filed.

Permission was never given to enter our yard, we do not have a no trespassing sign, we dont' even know for sure who it is in the yard.

Knowing all that - would we be covered from a legal perspective by posting a 'No Trespassing' sign on the fence if a person were to get hurt either climbing over the fence or through the windows? Part of me says that it's pretty obvious that it's private property since the yard is fully fenced and the only access point is locked. But then, I have a little common sense....

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I would check with a lawyer, or at least a paralegal about that - bylaws are different everywhere and you want to be sure.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 5:48PM
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Interesting, I was speaking with my sister and her husband, both attorneys, about this type of situation just this week. You do need to create a paper trail. Call the police repeatedly anytime you think someone might be in your yard. File a report and keep a copy of it and all incidents that take place. Get a major lock for the gate. Take away anything that makes access into the yard easy. You will not be protected by simply putting up a sign, sorry to say. That being said, I would put up no trespassing signs right away; this may deter some children. Discard any balls or toys that come over your fence; do not return them. You do want to make it clear that your property is yours and uninvited visitors are not welcome. You may also want to check into putting up some type of camera to figure out who is coming into your yard. You are on dangerous ground here and need to take immediate action. If a child hurts themself on your property, you want to at least show that you have done everything possible to stop these actions.
I feel for's not fair or right, but the law is not on your side in this case.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 10:25PM
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How about maybe becoming friendly with the kids so that they can just ask you for the balls back instead of sneaking in. You might make some new friends too. That way, no one gets hurt, no one files a lawsuit and no one trespasses. People are far more likely to bring a lawsuit against someone they don't like than a friendly neighbor.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 7:43PM
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Unless you are maintaining an 'attractive nuisance' you have no real liability.
If you want to keep them out, that is not a liability issue.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 6:59PM
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I am an attorney and I don't get the problem. Its your property --you don't have some sort of attractive nuisance like playground equipment and you aren't maintaining a home for unfriendly pit bulls. You have a home and these kids may ultimately break in and steal something. Nobody is entitled to come in to your yard. If they hurt themselves climbing your fence you have homeowners insurance that will resist giving them any money.
Call the police, complain to their parents, why are they coming in to your yard anyhow? they seem a little aggressive just retrieving a ball.
cleo's advice is worth taking also if they are young kids.
Make sure you have insurance, and don't worry about it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 2:17AM
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cearab said: "You may also want to check into putting up some type of camera to figure out who is coming into your yard."

Good idea. How about a "no trespassing" sign with a note that says "smile for the camera"! I'd also plant thorny bushes along the areas where they are trespassing.

I wonder what the parents would say if they knew their child were doing this? These kids should know better than to open your gate without asking.

A link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 5:37PM
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Silly, Remove the paint cans and anything the kids can use to climb over the fence from outside the outside of the fence. And lock your garage, my goodness, that is common sense. Kids sniff things found in garages to get high, don't give them that access.

You sound like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

It might not stop them but then at least if they get hurt you can't be blamed for providing them the ladder to climb over your fence or access to your garage.

If a kid gets hurt while you are at work or on vaction and they used your paint buckets or ladder to get over the fence. That is a whole different ball game in the eyes of the law than the kid stood on his bike to climb the fence.

After you remove what they are using to climb on, be nice when they knock on the door and ask for their ball.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 4:46PM
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I'd make sure my gate and garage were locked, then I'd get something to put any balls or toys you find in your backyard in. Put up a notice that all that stuff will be put into that container at the edge of your property so the kids can retrieve their toys.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 12:35AM
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When I was young & crazy/foolish enough to live in an area with close neighbors & unsupervised kids, I tossed all the balls on my property in the garbage. Just one less ball to smash into yet another one of our vehicles, house or wife's flower garden. I've tried being nice to people, but it doesn't work well in some neighborhoods. People often mistake kindness for weakness, so it's better to be feared than respected depending on the mentality and maturity of your neighbors and their rugrats.

When we'd had enough of city living, and decided to sell, we had an open house. During our first open house kids were climbing over our fence, and a skateboarder slammed into the neighbor's car parked on the street in front of our home. I thought too bad it wasn't legal to sedate or tranquilize these kids until we could sell our home. We managed to sell our home for more than our listing price during a relatively quiet period. The buyers commented how it was a nice quiet neighborhood.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 2:06PM
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