Matthew Leffler
Matthew Leffler

Can You Legally Prevent Santa from Flying Over Your House or Coming Down the Chimney?

December 16, 2013

Let’s say you’re a Grinch and that Santa left you a lump of coal last Christmas and you expect the same this year. Can you legally prevent Santa from flying over your house or coming down the chimney? Surprisingly, this issue has not been decided in the courts; however, here are some things to consider.

Generally, the airspace that is 500 feet or more above one’s house is navigable airspace. And, pursuant to federal law, the public has the freedom to travel through that airspace. Assuming Santa’s sleigh is an aircraft, and assuming Santa’s flight plans keep him at 500 feet (because he is a law abiding jolly fellow), Santa has what amounts to a license to fly in the airspace above one’s house.

Federal regulations also grant aircraft a limited exception to the minimum federal altitude of 500 feet for certain take-offs and landings. However, while Santa may be able to fly over your property when leaving your neighbor’s roof, he may be in trouble if his reindeer cause any damage to your roof upon his landing.

Further, one of the property rights a person has is the possession and exclusive control over his property, which includes the right to exclude others. So is Santa trespassing when he lands on the roof and comes down the chimney?  Or, does he have consent (i.e. permission) to be there?

Consent can be expressly given or it may be implied from the conduct of the homeowner, the relationship of the parties, or custom. Consent is required to confer a license on another to enter your property. Therefore, be forewarned that leaving milk and cookies out on or about December 24 of any year would support a strong argument for implied consent.

In my legal opinion, don’t be a Grinch this holiday season; rather, give Santa an express invitation to stop on by and enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones.

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