by: Patrick A. Randolph, Jr.
Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law
TRESPASS; SQUATTERS; PROPERTY RIGHTS: Although plaintiffs had the subjective expectation of privacy in their shelters and personalty, Plaintiffs had no right to privacy when they lived and stored their belongings on private property without the permission of the land owner. D'Aguanno vs. Gallagher, F.3d (11th Cir. 1995).
Four homeless persons who lived in shelters they had built on undeveloped private property brought this suit against the county sheriff and deputy sheriffs who ultimately entered the campsite and removed the plaintiff's shelters and personalty from the site. The owners of the real property on which the campsite was built stated they had placed "no trespassing" signs on the property but the signs were removed. During the time the Plaintiffs occupied the property, the defendant deputies visited the campsite regularly requesting the persons leave the property.
The court held that the plaintiffs cited no authority which recognizes that a person has a right to privacy when he lives or stores his belongings on private property without the permission of the land owner. Moreover, the plaintiffs cited no authority which clearly states that a homeless person retains a property interest in the shelters he erects on private property without permission.
Comment: Although the plaintiffs had no protected interest as against law enforcement officers, a landowner still might want to be cautious about "self help" remedies. Various tort claims might arise from such an effort, not the least of which could be an action in conversion if property that turns out to have value is lost or stolen during an eviction.
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