The Georgia legislature has passed several statutes to protect landowners against interference with and injury to their real estate. The starting point is that enjoyment of private property is an “absolute right” of every citizen. Any interference with such enjoyment creates a tort (wrongful act or an infringement of a right resulting in civil legal liability). OCGA § 51-9-1.
To the extent a person wrongfully deprives a landowner of possession of their property, the landowner can seek to recover possession and sue for damages for such injury to real estate. OCGA § 51-9-2. Similarly, if any person wrongfully interferes with a landowner’s possession, the landowner can seek damages. OCGA § 51-9-3.
Likewise, if a person wrongfully enters the landowner’s land or property without permission, a landowner to bring an action for trespass for injury to real estate. OCGA § 51-9-4. Trespass applies to persons wrongfully on land and applies to such things as improperly placed improvements or causing flooding on a landowners’ property. Anyone or anything that comes onto someone’s land due to wrongful conduct of another person can be a trespass. Suppose two persons claim possession of the same land. In that case, the person with title to the land is deeming to be rightfully in possession. In contrast, the other person is deemed to be a trespasser. OCGA § 51-9-5.
Regarding damages for trespass, such damages are limited to damages incurred up until an action is filed. OCGA § 51-9-6. Damages that occur after filing a lawsuit create a new cause of action.
Regarding streams (more formally called non-navigable watercourses), such landowners are entitled to the natural and usual flow of the stream across their property. If a person wrongfully diverts the stream from its natural and usual flow or lessens the value of the stream, this is considered trespass. OCGA § 51-9-7. The same applies to underground streams and interference of the space below and above the land’s surface. OCGA §§ 51-9-8 and 51-9-9. The last grounds for bringing a trespass action is if a person wrongfully interferes with a landowner’s right of way. OCGA § 51-9-10.
Finally, a landowner claims damages if any person wrongfully puts the landowners’ title to the property in question. OCGA § 51-9-11. When this happens, it is known as slander of title. An example would be if a person files a fraudulent deed on the public record and this deed causes the rightful owner’s title to be clouded. Clouded means that there is a possible issue with title. Wrongfully clouding title is considered an injury to real estate in Georgia.
If you are a landowner and your enjoyment of your land is being interfered with or violated, please call us at 404-382-9994 to discuss your options.