Squatters can cause great inconvenience and cost you money. However, it’s important you follow the correct legal procedure to remove anyone residing in a property you own without your permission. Here’s a quick look at the process for removing squatters.
The law on squatting
English law on adverse possession treats squatters occupying residential property differently from those trespassing on non-residential property. While it isn’t a crime just to be on non-residential property that you don’t own, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 made it a crime to enter residential property without permission with the intention of living there. If you find squatters on your property, the first thing you need to do is familiarise yourself with the current law. If in doubt, seek legal advice.
Removing squatters: What to do
You can call the police to remove anyone unlawfully residing in your residential property. If this doesn’t work, you need to do one of the following:
• Apply for an interim possession order and send it to the county court. Use this option if you discovered the squatters less than 28 days ago.
• Make a claim for possession. Use this option for squatters who have been on your property for 28+ days and/or you want to claim for damages.
If you’re trying to remove lawful tenants or sub-tenants who have overstayed their lease or owe rent, you must follow the correct eviction procedure.
Removing squatters: What not to do
It’s important not to resort to physical force otherwise you could end up being the one in trouble with the law. Remember that squatters have legal rights, including the right to become the registered owner of the property under certain circumstances.
The key to minimising the risk of squatters taking over your property is vigilance. If your property is empty, monitor it regularly and keep it secure. If it’s tenanted, use inspections and inventories to check that only those on the lease are residing in the property. Good property inventory software, such as that supplied by https://inventorybase.co.uk/, can help you make sure everything is in order.
Discovering a property is being lived in without permission is among many property owners’ worst fears. However, there are practical and legal steps you can take that can help you protect and get back what is rightfully yours.