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Trespass, Conversion, and Nuisance

Sandeep Dagar, Kat Kadian-Baumeyer
  • Author
    Sandeep Dagar

    Sandeep Dagar has experience in research, designing, and optimizing content for the Internet on various subjects, including History and Culture for over 14 years. His interest in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and extensive work experience in the eLearning industry has allowed him to participate in various learning formats for a wide range of learners, from K12 to adult learners and working professionals. He has an Honors Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from UPTU University.

  • Instructor
    Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

    Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

The lesson defines Trespass and Nuisance and provides elaborate examples of both concepts. It depicts the elements of Trespass and the definition of conversion. Updated: 03/04/2022

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Trespass Definition

Trespassing is the act of forcefully entering the property of another person without permission where the offender knowingly violates another person's right to property and fulfills the Elements of Trespass. According to tort law, a property owner can recover actual damages or get compensation in the form of relief for loss sustained due to trespass. The two torts of trespass are:

  • Trespass to land
  • Trespass to chattel

Trespass is committed knowingly, i.e., the person trespassing on someone's property has full knowledge that the property does not belong to him and occupies the property with wrong intentions. As per the trespass definition, the person trespassing into some other's property demonstrates purposeful action and remains on the property even after reminders that the property does not belong to them. In the situation when the person unknowingly trespasses any property and leaves it after a reminder that it does not fall under their possession does not amount to trespassing.

The person trespassing in some other's property in any form is liable to pay for the injunction and damages to the rightful owner of the property. The property owner can claim the remedy for the torts of trespass through the court as the offense falls under the elements of trespass.

Elements of Trespass

Any intentional activity on some other's property amounts to trespass. As per the trespass definition, some elements distinguish trespass from normal activity. The torts of trespass showcase intentional trespassing to land, forceful or unlawful entry without any permission or legal occupancy of the property, and refusal to vacate the property. Any person who intentionally or unintentionally possesses someone else's property or belongings shall be charged with trespass to chattel.

Trespass Examples

Trespass is a broad concept that can be understood through illustrations. Here are a few examples to clarify the concept.

Trespass to Land

Mac went on vacation for a few days with his friend in the countryside. When he returned, he saw a man sawing a few planks of wood in his garden. He asked the man to leave the property, but he did not listen and kept sawing. As per the trespass definition, Mac can accuse him of trespassing on his property.

Jenny moved to the city for her job. Her family also shifted with her, and they left their countryside property unattended. After a year when she came back, she was surprised to see a few men living there who accused her of barging into their property. After cross-checking the documents, the people living there apologized for the mistake of identity and vacated the property, as they had occupied her land due to confusion.

They cannot be accused of trespass, as they vacated the property without any legal or police interference.

Trespass to Chattel

Jack went on an outing with his friends to the amusement park, and there were other people there as well. While getting refreshment, Jack mistakenly packed the laptop of the park staff, thinking it was his own. According to the trespass definition, here Jack is liable for trespass to chattel, as a mistake of ownership is not a defense in this case.

The elements of trespass depict that if a person trespassing the property runs away with any stuff from the personal property of another person, it is referred to as trespass to chattel. It does not apply to real property or interest inland. According to the tort law, a chattel can only recover actual damages caused by the actions of the trespasser that are calculated on the diminished value and not on the actual value.

An intentional trespass to chattel involves the following elements:

  • Intent to trespass
  • Lack of owner's consent
  • Any damage to the condition, quality, or value of the property

Mistake of ownership is not a defense in the matters of trespass to chattel. This can shield someone in trespass to land but only if they vacate the property after reminders from the rightful owner.

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  • 0:10 Tresspass to Land and Chattel
  • 2:00 Conversion
  • 3:46 Nuisance and Private Nuisance
  • 4:40 Public Nuisance
  • 6:06 Lesson Summary
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Nuisance Definition

Nuisance does not require actual interference with the property of some other person. According to tort law, nuisance can be committed even through interference with the enjoyment of space of some other person. Nuisance amounts to unreasonable and substantial interference without any physical trespass that takes place when the person performs any act resulting in the inconvenience or discomfort of some other person as an individual or as a community.

However, if any such situation arises where the intrusion is caused for the greater good, such as deep digging of the road for any pipeline causing great noise at unexpected hours or any other damage, it cannot be considered nuisance.

Types of Nuisance

The person causing a nuisance to an individual or a community is liable for a legal proceeding under two situations: private nuisance and public nuisance.

Private Nuisance

Private nuisance is an intrusion on the use and enjoyment of a person on his land. This amounts to an interference with another person's enjoyment and not an actual invasion over his personal property, for example - making loud noises, spreading any stinky smell, etc. It may be unintentional, but any activity that causes inconvenience to some other person on his property falls under private nuisance.

Public Nuisance

Public nuisance is the intrusion of enjoyment in such a manner that it impacts the entire community. As per the nuisance definition, it is a condition affecting the rights of an entire community or neighborhood due to any act that endangers or injures the comfort, health, or safety of others, for example - any dangerous structure, obstruction to a public way, illegal dumping, dumping in waterways, etc.

Private Nuisance vs. Public Nuisance

The torts of private and public nuisance have basic differences that keep them apart, and anyone can distinguish whether the nuisance is private or public. They can differentiate between them as such:

  • Private nuisance infringes the rights of a person, whereas public nuisance is an infringement of public rights.
  • Private nuisance causes injury to an individual, whereas public nuisance causes injury or inconvenience to the public.
  • The person injured in a private nuisance can call upon legal action, whereas the person injured in a public nuisance can call for action only if he sustains any special injury.

The nuisance definition suggests that the affected person can seek legal assistance only if he fulfills the parameters of the private nuisance tort or public nuisance tort.

Nuisance Examples

You can understand more about the torts of private and public nuisance through the following examples.

Private nuisance refers to the nuisance caused by someone that disturbs the personal space of any individual, for example:

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you identify a nuisance?

As per the Nuisance definition, any particular activity causing discomfort to an individual or a community where the repeated actions of an individual interfere with the personal space of an individual and interfere with their enjoyment is identified as Nuisance. It does not involve real estate and depends more on moral grounds.

What is the legal meaning of nuisance?

According to the nuisance definition, any harmful or offensive human activity that endangers the common public or creates discomfort is considered a nuisance and is liable for legal action. Nuisance stands for some activity that may be harmful or offensive to others and may give rise to legal action.

What is considered as trespassing?

The trespass definition suggests that anyone entering the property of some other person without any prior approval of the owner or any legal authority and not vacating the property, even after repeated reminders, is said to commit trespassing. It shows the clear intention of occupying someone else's property without any legal rights of occupation.

What is an example of a nuisance?

According to the Nuisance definition, any illegal activity such as illegal establishments, unlicensed stores, or practitioners that interfere with public morals and any kind of obstruction causing discomfort or inconvenience to daily commuters or the people living in the neighborhood are some of the examples of a nuisance.

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