Can You Walk Through a Construction Site?
Is it Illegal To Walk Through a House Under Construction?
Passing or walking through a construction site can be a legal, illegal or grey area depending on the site setup, contract and circumstances. Let’s look at situations whereby it’s illegal to pass or walk through a construction site.
When It’s Illegal To Pass or Walk Through a Construction Site
Legally, a construction site is private property, lot or plot which belongs to the project owner. So before we even talk about the possession of the site by the building contractor for protection and security, this legal aspect alone should prohibit anyone from trespassing the site.
Whereby the contractor has enclosed the site with barriers, safety screens, gates, hoarding and access ways for public safety and security purposes, it is illegal to scale the barriers, pass through the gates, remove barriers or use any other means of access which are not meant for the public. The existence of barriers and screen walls around the site should be a warning and sign that guides passersby on the location of property boundary lines. Breaching the property lines should be a trespass violation. A security guard or site watcher has the right to tell you to move away from the property if you are within the boundaries or inside the property. In case of resistance or refusal to obey, the site watcher can call the police.
Whereby the construction site has no physical barriers, screen walls, hoarding or public access ways, but ground line markings (e.g. paint lines, flag markers, pins, stakes or stringlines etc.), it is illegal to cross the line markings and pass through the site.
In most construction projects governed by Conditions of Building Contract, the contractor under the direction of the principal agent (architect or engineer) is required to protect the site including site works, existing infrastructure, plant, materials and equipment from vandalism, theft, damage and loss. It is the contractor’s duty to ensure safety for the workmen, consulting team, visitors and the public. In doing this, the contractor shall under the direction of the principal agent, limit access to the site or works for certain people, requiring their removal from the site for security reasons. The area of the works will be defined by the principal agent, including restricted zones and location of site exits.
Access to the site and works will also be restricted to specific times, of which employees, workmen and the project team may not be allowed to visit.
If you don’t have permission from the principal agent or contractor to access the site or works, the contractor and site representatives will not be held responsible for any injury that might occur to you. This is one reason why trespassing, walking through a construction site or house under construction is not a good idea. A pedestrian or passerby will more likely qualify for compensation in case of injury if they used designated/safe means of public access installed by the contractor, for example hoarding (protected passage ways) installed around or over the site.
In case of construction workers, injuries incurred outside working hours and/or in restricted zones may prove a challenge for compensation if they did not get permission from the contractor or principal agent.
Generally, if you have permission from the contractor or principal agent, it is legal to walk through a construction site or house under construction, but the contractor/principal agent will bear the full risks and be held liable for any injury or damage that might occur.
Walking Through a Construction Site: Grey Area Between Legal and Illegal
Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where the boundary lines of a construction site are located because the area of works and private property is not clearly defined nor visible. Imagine an excavation or house under construction at foundation stage surrounded by bushes, sand or grass with no screen wall or fence to demarcate the area. A passerby may inadvertently encroach the private territory or walk through the site, just as you would walk through a site that looks abandoned.
In this case, what you would be in hot soup for is walking through the house under construction, because clearly the building outline is visible, and this building is private property. The contractor is supposed to protect the site and the building from damage, vandalism and theft. As explained previously, if you get injured while walking through the partly finished house, the contractor or site representative will not be held liable.
In informal settlements where people build without a permit and where the land is not serviced nor divided into private lots / plots, you might walk through a construction site and not be in legal trouble because the land is not owned by anybody.