Charlottesville Timber Trespass Attorneys
Both country and city dwellers alike realize that the trees on their properties have great value. In addition to adding aesthetic and emotional value to property, mature trees can have an undeniable economic value, both for timber value and for enhancing the overall value of real estate. Because of the value trees have, Virginia has a civil cause of action for “timber trespass,” which occurs when someone trespasses on another’s property and cuts and removes trees and other vegetation from the property. Timber trespass can be either intentional or negligent.
In a perfect world, boundary lines would be agreed upon by all neighbors, clearly marked on the land, and universally respected by all loggers. This is not typically the real world, however. As the Virginia Department of Forestry recently recognized, there are various scenarios that can result in timber trespass, such as:
- when the property line is not known, is not marked, or is disputed among neighbors, and the logger cuts over the boundary line unintentionally;
- when the landowner selling timber intentionally misrepresents the location of the property line and thereby sells the neighboring timber as his own; or
- when the logger intentionally commits timber trespass by crossing and cutting timber across a known boundary line.
No matter the scenario, the landowner bears the burden of determining that timber trespass has occurred, identifying the responsible logger, calculating the value of the lost trees, and pursuing an action to recover compensation for the lost timber. Landowners must act immediately to protect and preserve their rights.
Virginia law provides two approaches for dealing with timber trespass: civil and criminal. Criminally, the person guilty of stealing timber valued greater than $200 can be convicted of grand larceny. In a successful timber trespass criminal action, the injured landowner may be legally entitled to restitution similar to what can be ordered in a civil case. The actual results, of course, depend heavily on the facts and evidence of the trespass.
Civilly, Virginia has enacted a timber trespass statute that, when properly followed, may permit the landowner to recover treble damages, which are triple the amount of the lost timber. The timber trespass statute may also permit the recovery of legal fees (not to include attorneys’ fees) expended to recover compensation under the statute. And, in some instances, a landowner can recover costs necessary to reforest the stripped portion of their property. The civil timber trespass process is technical and complex, so it is absolutely essential that landowners immediately retain an experienced timber trespass attorney if they want to pursue a statutory action for timber trespass.
Of course, a monetary award cannot bring back mature trees that have been unlawfully cut. Because of that, a landowner should take some commonsense steps to prevent timber theft from occurring in the first place. Good practices include:
- Being familiar with your property. Visit the property frequently so that you remain aware of the happenings on your land. If you are unable to do so, ask a friend or neighbor to provide periodic updates about anything that is going on in the area.
- Paying close attention to any logging operations nearby. If a neighbor is logging, ask the important questions to identify the logging contractor and the specific details of the project. Let the contractor know you are aware of and interested in their operations.
- Marking your property boundaries. Paint markings and appropriate signage on and between trees can greatly reduce and prevent unintentional timber trespass.
If you have been the victim of timber theft or an unlawful timber cutting, contact the Charlottesville Timber Trespass Attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. at (434) 817-3100 and ask for Robert E. Byrne, Jr. Whether trees were taken from your property without permission, you had a contract with the party to harvest the trees and were not adequately paid, the contract was breached, or more trees were harvested than were paid for, our Timber Theft Attorneys can help.