In Massachusetts, trespassing is a common neighbor dispute. It can be both a civil offense, which can lead to a lawsuit and compensation, and a criminal offense that can lead to an arrest. It also encapsulates more than just the traditional problem of a neighbor walking through your yard.
The Crime of Trespassing
In Massachusetts, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly enter or remain on someone else's property without a right to do so or without their permission. The statute is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 266 § 120. The penalties include up to $100 in fines and up to 30 days in jail.
Property owners can call the police on a neighbor who is trespassing in their yard, or can document when it happens – preferably with photos or video – and file a police report.
Doing so will likely deter future trespassing, but it will probably escalate other tensions. It also will not lead to any compensation for any damage done to your property.
Civil Lawsuits for Trespassing Can Recover Compensation
Civil lawsuits can recover compensation for trespassing, as well as other remedies. They also cover a broader scope of trespassing activities. While criminal trespass focuses on the trespasser entering the property, on their own, civil trespass also includes conduct by the trespasser that sends or builds an object on the property.
Examples of civil trespass in Massachusetts have included:
- A golf course that allowed golf balls to land in neighboring property
- Erecting a building over the property line
- Cutting down trees on someone else’s property
Property owners or possessors, like tenants, can file a trespassing lawsuit against the person or people who are infringing on their property. The lawsuit can demand that the trespassing stop and that compensation be paid for the victim's losses and inconvenience. Depending on the circumstances, this compensation can be substantial, as it can cover:
- The costs of replacing or repairing any damage caused
- Emotional distress from the trespass
- Lost profits, if the victim was a business
- Lost rental income
Perhaps more importantly, if the trespass is in the form of a structure, like a building or a fence, the trespasser can be made to remove it, at no cost to the rightful property owner.
In cases where the trespasser came onto the property owner's premises and cut down trees or crops, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 242 § 7 and § 7A can let the victim recover three times the value of the losses.
Massachusetts Trespassing Lawyers at the Katz Law Group
Some neighbors have a poor conception of what property rights entail. They may think that, because there is no fence and no one is watching, they can enjoy someone else's property with impunity, or that they can make life miserable for neighbors, so long as they do not cross the border.
Neither is true. The neighbor dispute lawyers at the Katz Law Group can help you invoke your property rights. Contact them online or call their law office at (508) 480-8202 for help in Marlborough, Worcester, Framingham, or the rest of Massachusetts.