A Homeowner’s Guide to Squatting

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What You Need to Know

  1. Squatting is when someone enters and lives in a property without the permission of the owner.
  2. However, tenants who stay in a property beyond the length of a contract are not, technically speaking, squatting, but trespassing.
  3. Changes to the law made in the summer of 2012 made squatting a criminal offence rather than a civil matter.
  4. As such, squatting is punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a £5,000 fine, or both.
  5. If you find are the owner of a property and find someone squatting your home, then you may no longer need to go through the civil courts to deal with them.
  6. Note, however, it is a legal offence to use or threaten violence against squatters.
  7. If, however, you are the owner of a property that you are not living in and which is run down and is in need of obvious work before it can be sold or rented out, then you will have to apply to the courts to request any squatters be removed.

What is Squatting?

Quite simply, squatting is when someone enters and lives in a property without the permission of the owner. Squatting can also be used to describe a trespasser living in a property without the permission of the person legally entitled to occupy it, such as a tenant.

However, tenants who stay in a property beyond the length of a contract are not, technically speaking, squatting, but trespassing, since they originally had the right to enter the property.

Squatting and the Law

The UK government passed tough anti-squatting legislation in 2012, making squatting a criminal offence rather than a civil matter. According to the government, the new rules will offer homeowners greater protection and “slam shut the door on squatters once and for all”.

As of September 2012, squatting is punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a £5,000 fine, or both. Additionally, ‘squatters’ rights’ have been abolished, again in order to give property owners more protection.

Dealing with Squatters

If you find someone squatting your home, then you may no longer need to go through the civil courts to deal with them. Instead, call the police (though only use 999 if it’s a genuine emergency).

If you are the property owner, then the law is now on your side. You will not need a court order to evict squatters if:

  • You are a ‘displaced residential occupier’. That is, if squatters have entered a property you own and live in while you are away, for instance if they have moved in while you are on holiday.
  • You are a ‘protected intending occupier’. That is, you are the legal owner of a property and are scheduled to move into it.

In the above instances, you are legally permitted to enter the property – breaking the door down if necessary – and demand the squatters leave. If they refuse, you may call the police, who may opt to arrest the squatters. Note, however, regardless of your legal status, you are still barred from use or even threaten violence against squatters. To do so could lead to you being arrested.

If, however, you are the owner of a property that you are not living in and which is run down and is in need of obvious work before it can be sold or rented out, then you will have to apply to the courts to request any squatters be removed. At the same time, if the property you own is technically a commercial property or, then squatters are still entitled to call on their ‘squatters’ rights’, meaning you will have to go through the courts to get them evicted.

Further Reading

 

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