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What is trespassing?

Trespass Act 1980, ss 2–4

If you own or rent property, you have the right to decide who comes onto it. It’s a criminal offence if a trespasser:

  • refuses to leave your property after you warn them to leave, or
  • returns after you warn them not to return.

For more information about trespass law, see below and see also the chapter “Activism” under “Protests and the general criminal law”.

Warning a trespasser

Trespass Act 1980, s 5

If someone is on your property, you can tell them to leave and to stay off your property.

If someone has trespassed on your property, or if you think it’s likely they will trespass, you can tell them to stay off.

You can deliver the warning verbally or in writing. If you give a written notice, it doesn’t need to say anything special, just that the person isn’t allowed on your property. But because lots of people don’t know that it’s that simple, you might want to use our sample trespass notice below. If you give any notice in writing, you should keep a copy to help show that you have given a warning, in case you need to go to the police later because the trespasser has come back.

You could copy the sample notice below or collect a form from your local police station which has a section you can fill in and return as proof that you served the notice, in case you need to complain again.

Trespass offences and penalties

Trespass Act 1980, ss 3, 4, 11

If someone has been warned to keep off a property, and they don’t leave or they come back within two years of the warning, that’s a criminal offence. The penalty for trespass offences is a fine of up to $1,000 or a prison term of up to three months.

Sample Trespass Notice

    To: [name]

    of: [address]

    Notice under the Trespass Act 1980

    Please take note that in accordance with the above Act I withdraw my consent for you to enter on to my property, [address], for any reason.

    Please note that it is an offence against the Trespass Act 1980 if you ignore this warning and enter on to my property within two years after you have received this warning, unless I cancel this notice at an earlier time. You will be liable to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to three months’ imprisonment.

    Dated this …… day of ……………… 20 …

    Signed …………………………………

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