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Property Rights To A Fruit Picker

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pls someone help...

if Herbert, a fee simple owner in a large area if land fences off his land but leaves a lock so that local residents can enter his land to pick fruit, THEN the residents sell a greengrocer (also a resident) their right to pick fruit for 100,000 pounds........

would Herbert have case? what could he claim?

coz he now wants to move and sell his land to someone who wants to run a commercial fruit farm, would the greengrocers right be valid or could he sell it to the new person???????

(Removed incomplete color tag - sNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd
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May I suggest that you not fiddle with colo(u)r features, and perhaps follow standard spelling and capitali{z/s}ation conventions? It's a small detail, but it's important to make it clear to the readership whether you want to be taken seriously. That's one form of help I can offer.

A fence means "keep out" or "keep in", or possibly "this is art". A hole in the fence is a bit confusing, but a gate makes it sensible -- the owner want to be able to pass through the fence without having to jump over it. A lock on that gate very strongly says "you there, stay out!". Given that, if you believe that Herbert has given some form of permission to locals to pick fruit on his property, you need to say what that evidence is -- a posted sign? What does it say? Is there a contract, and if so what are the specifics. A contract would directly address this question (note that if your landlord sells your building to someone, your lease is not automatically invalidated). The locals have no right to his fruits, except as he explicitly gives permission to enter his property and pluck his fruits, and they cannot sell that "right", so the fruiterer has no claim whatsoever on the land (but check if there is a subleasing clause). He would in fact be responsible for theft and trespassing if he had not received permission from Herbert (a contract is a form of permission).

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I am not a lawyer and it has been a while since I studied this sort of thing, so with that in mind.......

The specific details would vary depending on your locality. If you are here in the United States, it would depend upon which state you live in.

Generally speaking, it is possible for other people to, over time, acquire legal rights to your real property if you fail to actively assert or defend your property rights.

Depending on the circumstances, if you allow someone to continue to trespass on your property long enough, they could acquire a right to an easement (i.e. a right to pass through your property, such as a shortcut to an adjoining property) or even outright ownership, as in the case of squatters' rights.

A common example of this would be if I built a shed on the edge of my property line adjoining yours and the shed's location was poorly planned so that it actually extended a bit onto your property, if you fail to take steps to address the situation, after time, you would no longer have a right to ask me to take the shed down and would lose your rights to the land on which it rests. Likewise, if I and my guests were to drive across your property without your permission in order to more conveniently reach mine and you did nothing to stop it, over time I would acquire an actual right, or an easement, to continue doing so.

Exactly how long the trespass must continue and under what conditions varies from state to state here in the USA.

The key to protecting your property in such situations is to make sure that those you allow to enjoy its use have your explicit permission. Granting someone permission to use your property does not convey any sort of rights to them - it is a privilege which you may revoke. But allowing them to take de-facto possession of some sort can potentially jeopardize your rights.

If you notice as you are going about town, you will occasionally see signs which say "Private Road" and you will see commercial developments with little plaques indicating that the sidewalks and parking lots are private property. Or, if the sidewalk is partially public property but also extends onto private property, you will sometimes see a plaque indicating the property line. All of this is an example of the owners enforcing their property rights in order to protect themselves from potential claims that an easement was created by allowing regular access to the public.

As I understand it, the premise behind all this is that property rights are not something which are arbitrarily granted by the state but which must be earned and protected by an active process on the part of the owner.

With regard to the example of the fruit orchard, any rights of the local residents would depend on what sort of arrangement was made with Herbert, the property owner. If he gave them permission to pick fruit, then they would have no rights - just as if I gave you the key to my house and told you that you had my permission to enter as you please whenever you are in town and sleep in the guest bed, you would acquire no rights whatsoever and certainly not the right to sell that privilege or turn my house into a bed and breakfast. On the other hand, if the residents had no permission to enter his property but they nevertheless entered it year after year in order to pick the fruit, it is possible that they might acquire some sort of easement, especially if he was aware that they were doing so and did nothing to assert his rights. But all they would acquire would be the right to access the property and pick fruit - they would not acquire any sort of title which they could then legally sell to others. To acquire actual title to the land, they would need to take additional steps such as mend the fences, cultivate the soil, plant, prune, water and tend to the fruit trees, etc. It is possible, I believe, that if a situation were to exist where the local residents had a right to an easement, that such a right would continue to exist even if the property were sold to someone else - and that would have an impact on the property's value. But even if such an easement were to come into existence, individual residents would not be able to sell or transfer their right of access to someone else.

Situations like the one you describe are very rare as they are easy to prevent and take a number of years of inaction on the part of the property owner to develop. Usually a simply "No Trespassing" sign is enough - and perhaps filing a complaint with the police or sending a written notice to those who repeatedly trespass - is sufficient.

The most likely scenario where something like this becomes an issue involves adjoining properties. When I was a kid, the next door neighbors' backyard fence was located one inch inside their property line. My parents technically maintained that one inch of property on our side of the fence and, over time, it is conceivable that they might have acquired a legally valid claim over that additional inch (I am not sure if Texas has laws to specifically prevent that from happening or not). However, in this particular instance, it would never have become an issue because, every year or two, the lady next door would politely inform my mother that she would be coming into our backyard so that she could thin out the vines which grew on the fence. In doing so, whether she realized it or not, she was protecting her claim to the rightful boundaries of her property.

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A similar happening occurs in property management. If I repeatedly allow someone to pay late on a rent, a judge might consider that an explicit a change of rental due date in the lease agreement. Effectively changing the date on which rent is due.

For that reason I take two precautions. When I do waive late fees on a late rent, I specifically write it on the receipt and in my lease agreement, I use a clause which specifically allows me to be consistently lenient without an implied change to the rental due date.

I imagine that posted No Trespassing signs accomplish the same effect. They state to the world that any leniency on the part of the property owner is temporary and should not be relied upon.

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