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May a Homeowner Ban People from Taking a Shortcut Through His Property?

Rav Yosef Greenwald

Question: Is it permitted to take a shortcut through someone else’s property without permission? Can a homeowner block people from walking through his property, or would this fall under the category of “middas Sodom” because the homeowner isn’t losing anything by having people walk through his yard?

Answer: Tosafos understands that the reason one can’t charge someone who used his property in a case of zeh nehen v’zeh lo chaseir is because of the rule of “ain kofin al middas Sodom”, which basically means: What do you care if someone else derived a benefit as long as you aren’t losing anything?

The question is whether middas Sodom just means that you can’t charge someone retroactively for enjoyment he had from your property, or if it also means that you can’t prevent someone from using your property in the future.

Tosafos says that the rule of middas Sodom does not mean that people do not have full property rights. Homeowners cannot be forced to let people trespass on their property. Although they can’t charge them for having done so, they also don’t have to allow them to do it in the first place.

Moreover, it could be argued that in most cases allowing people to walk through someone’s yard is a case a chaseir, as a loss of privacy is also a loss.

Although the Rishonim do say that there is also a moral imperative not to be like the people of Sodom if there really isn’t any loss, still, one cannot be forced to allow people to walk through their property.

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