You are on page 1of 8

Squatters How to Deal with Squatters Squatting in residential buildings houses, flats etc since 1 October 2012 is a criminal

al offence in England & Wales. It can lead to months in !rison, a "#,000 fine, or both. Squatting is $hen someone %no$ingl& enters a building as a tres!asser $ith the intention of li'ing there. ( tenant $ho enters a !ro!ert& $ith the !ermission of the landlord, but $ho falls into arrears $ith rent !a&ments, $ill not be a squatter. (lthough squatting in a commercial )non*residential+ building or land is ,O- in itself a crime, tres!assers on non*residential !ro!ert& ma& be committing other crimes. -his is still a ci'il matter unaffected b& the ne$ la$ and &ou $ill need a court order to remo'e squatters. .emo'ing squatters from a residential !ro!ert& should, in theor&, be much sim!ler than before as the !olice $ill sim!l& remo'e them !ro'iding &ou ha'e notified them as soon as the& are disco'ered. /o$e'er, there0s some sce!ticism as to ho$ efficient this !rocess ma& be as the !olice ha'e traditionall& been reluctant to act in ci'il matters, and $hat ha!!ens if the squatters !roduce fa%e tenanc& agreements etc1 In the case of commercial !remises the !rocess is as before &ou need an Interim 2ossession Order )I2O+ to legall& remo'e squatters. Why a New Squatter Law 3ustice 4inister 5ris!in 6lunt said7 89or too long squatters ha'e had the :ustice s&stem on the run and ha'e caused homeo$ners untold miser& in e'iction, re!air and clean*u! costs. ,ot an&more. /ard $or%ing homeo$ners need and deser'e a :ustice s&stem $here their rights come first this ne$ offence $ill ensure the !olice and other agencies can ta%e quic% and decisi'e action to deal $ith the miser& of squatting.0 A new Offence -he ne$ offence $as introduced b& Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punish ent of Offenders Act !"1! effecti'e from 1 October 2012 follo$ing !ublic concern about the harm that tres!assers can cause. It $ill !rotect landlords, second homeo$ners and local authorities $ho disco'er tres!assers li'ing in residential buildings that the& o$n or control, e'en if no one $as li'ing there at the time the tres!assers occu!ied the building. If an occu!ier has no o$nershi! documents, no lease or tenanc& agreement, no record of ha'ing !aid rent to a landlord, and no other e'idence of occu!anc& rights e;ist, then the occu!ier is more than li%el& a squatter and should be remo'ed b& the !olice. It is !erha!s of no consolation to landlords that squatters often belie'e the& ha'e a !erfect right to occu!& $hen !ro!erties are left 'acant, es!eciall& for long !eriods.

Su#section $1% of section 144 sets out the

ain ele ents of the offence

-he offence is committed $hen7 )1+ a !erson is in a residential building as a tres!asser ha'ing entered it as such< )2+ the !erson %no$s or ought to %no$ that the& are a tres!asser< and )=+ the !erson is li'ing in the building or intends to li'e there for an& !eriod. ( !erson can onl& commit the offence if the& ha'e entered and remain in the residential building as a tres!asser. -he offence $ill not a!!l& to a !erson $ho entered the building $ith !ermission of the !ro!ert& o$ner, such as a legitimate tenant. -he !erson must %no$ or ought to %no$ that s>he is a tres!asser. -he offence $ill not ca!ture someone $ho enters the !ro!ert& in good faith reasonabl& belie'ing the& had !ermission to do so. -his could arise, for e;am!le, $here a bogus letting agent encouraged an unsus!ecting tenant to occu!& somebod& else0s !ro!ert&. In such circumstances, ho$e'er, it might be reasonable to e;!ect the 8tenant0 to !ro'ide e'idence of a tenanc& agreement or rent !a&ments to sho$ the& had a reasonable belief that the& $ere not a tres!asser. -he offence also requires that the tres!asser 8is li'ing0 or 8intends to li'e0 in the building for an& !eriod. -he offence does not a!!l& to !eo!le $ho are in the residential building momentaril& or ha'e no intention of li'ing there. -he offence cannot be committed b& a !erson holding o'er after the end of a lease or license )e'en if the !erson lea'es and re*enters the building+. 8/olding o'er0 is a term used to describe the situation $here a tenanc& or licence comes to an end, but the tenant or licensee remains in occu!ation. In addition to the ne$ offence of squatting in a residential building, there are a range of other offences $hich might arise in connection $ith squatting, de!ending on the circumstances of the case. If doors or $indo$s of the !ro!ert& are bro%en to gain access or items inside ha'e been used damaged or remo'ed, the offences of criminal damage, theft or burglar& might be committed. -here is also an offence of 8abstracting electricit&0 under section 1= of the -heft (ct 1? @, $hich is committed $hen somebod& dishonestl& and $ithout due authorit& causes to be $asted or di'erted electricit&. -res!assers $ho fail to lea'e a !ro!ert& $ith 2A hours of ser'ice of an interim !ossession order or return to the !remises $ithin a &ear of such an order being ser'ed are also guilt& of a summar& offence under section B of the 5riminal 3ustice and 2ublic Order (ct 1??A. In addition, Section B of the 5riminal Ca$ (ct 1?BB )8section B offence0+ ma%es it an offence for a !erson $ho is on residential !remises as a tres!asser ha'ing entered as such to refuse to lea'e a residential !ro!ert& $hen required to do so b& a 8dis!laced residential occu!ier0 or a 8!rotected intending occu!ier0 of the !ro!ert&. -his means that la$ful occu!iers $ho ha'e effecti'el& been made homeless b& tres!assers can require the tres!assers to lea'e and if the& refuse to lea'e the offence can be re!orted to the !olice. -he ne$ offence $ill ma%e it more difficult for tres!assers to assert the& ha'e rights in res!ect of residential buildings because their occu!ation of the building $ill be a criminal act. -he !olice

$ill ha'e a s!ecific !o$er, under section 1B of 2(5E, to enter the !ro!ert& to arrest a !erson $ho is sus!ected of squatting in a residential building. -he !olice should not therefore be deterred if the& see a 8squatters0 rights0 notice on the door of a residential building asserting that it $ould be an offence for an&one )including the !olice+ to brea% into the !ro!ert&. -he !olice ha'e la$ful authorit& under section 1& of the Police and 'ri inal ()idence Act 1*+4 $PA'(% codes of ,ractice to enter the !ro!ert& to ma%e an arrest. Squatting in non-residential ,ro,erties ( non*residential !ro!ert& is an& building or land that isn0t designed to be li'ed in. Sim!l& being on another !erson0s non*residential !ro!ert& $ithout their !ermission is not usuall& a crime. 6ut if squatters commit other crimes $hen entering or sta&ing in a !ro!ert&, the !olice can ta%e action against them. -hese crimes could include7

causing damage $hen entering the !ro!ert& causing damage $hile in the !ro!ert& not lea'ing $hen the&0re told to b& a court stealing from the !ro!ert& using utilities li%e electricit& or gas $ithout !ermission fl&*ti!!ing not com!l&ing $ith a noise abatement notice ercial% Pro,erty /ac0

.etting your Non-residential $co

If &ou o$n the !ro!ert& that has been squatted, &ou must a!!l& to the courts for an interim !ossession order )I2O+ to get &our !ro!ert& bac%. 'ourt Action If &ou follo$ the right !rocedure, &ou can usuall& get one issued b& the courts $ithin a fe$ da&s. -o get final !ossession of the !ro!ert&, &ou must also ma%e an a!!lication for !ossession $hen &ou a!!l& for the I2O. Dse form ,1=0 to a!!l& for an interim !ossession order and for !ossession. htt!7>>hmctscourtfinder.:ustice.go'.u%>/45-S>Eet9orm.do1courtFformsFidG=B? (1ce,tions Hou can0t use an I2O if7

&ou0re also ma%ing a claim for damages caused b& the squatters instead &ou can ma%e an ordinar& claim for !ossession more than 2@ da&s ha'e !assed since &ou found out about the squatters

&ou0re tr&ing to e'ict former tenants, sub*tenants or licensees

Once squatters are ser'ed $ith an I2O, the& must lea'e the !ro!ert& $ithin 2A hours. If the& don0t, the&0re committing a crime and could ser'e u! to months in !rison. It0s also a crime for them to return to the !ro!ert& $ithin 12 months. Squatters ta0ing Ownershi, of a Pro,erty It0s difficult and 'er& rare for squatters to ta%e o$nershi! of a !ro!ert&. -o do this, the& $ould ha'e to sta& in a !ro!ert& $ithout the o$ner0s !ermission for at least 10 &ears. See ad'erse !ossession belo$. 2e o)ing Squatters 3uic0ly Hou need to act quic%l& once &ou find squatters in &our !remises. Hour first course of action should be to call the !olice. Hou ma& be as%ed to !ro'e o$nershi! of the !remises, so it is im!ortant that &ou can access o$nershi! documents. In the case of commercial !remises, unless the !olice are able to remo'e the squatters quic%l& because the& ha'e committed other criminal offences, &ou $ill need to a!!l& to the courts for an Interim 2ossession Order )I2O+. I strongJInterim 2ossession Order (n I2O is a quic%er !rocedure e;ists $hich allo$s commercial landlords to get the interim !ossession order, !ending a :udge0s decision to grant a full !ossession order. -o assist &our case &ou $ill be in'ited to ma%e an underta%ing to the court that7 1. Hou $ill allo$ the occu!ier>s bac% onto the !remises )$ith com!ensation+ if the court later decides &ou $as not entitled to an interim !ossession order. 2. Hou $ill not re*let the !remises, damage or dis!ose of them until the court ma%es its final decision b& granting a full !ossession order. -he rules are strict $hen it comes to ser'ing !a!ers and notices on the squatters it is eas& to fall fo$l of the rules here. Within a fe$ da&s the court should issue the claim, follo$ing $hich &ou must ser'e the court !a!ers on the squatters $ithin 2A hours, either in !erson or attached to and dis!la&ed on the main door of the !remises. If the court grants an interim !ossession order a co!& of the order must be ser'ed on the squatters $ithin A@ hours and the squatters $ill be required to lea'e $ithin 2A hours and not return $ithin 12 months. If the squatter>s refuse to lea'e the& are committing a criminal offence and ris% being arrested b& the !olice or being e'icted b& a court bailiff. -he& ma& also be sub:ect to a fine or im!risonment or both. -he squatters are entitled to !ut for$ard a defence at one further hearing, failing $hich a full 2ossession Order $ill be made. If the squatters are still in !ossession at this stage, the court bailiff, if necessar& assisted b& the !olice, can e'ict.

-he $hole !rocess should be ca!able of being resol'ed $ithin one to t$o $ee%s, !ro'iding &ou can !ro'e &our o$n title and the tres!assers cannot sho$ an& sort of legal interest in the land. 4he 5ustice6go) we#site 7 8nfor ation on Squatters 9ull details and ad'ice for both !arties, %no$n legall& as a!!licants and res!ondents, o$ners or landlords and squatters are a'ailable on the 3ustice.go' $ebsite. htt!7>>$$$.:ustice.go'.u%>ne$s>!ress*releases>mo:>homeo$ners*!rotected,*squatters* criminalised Candlords0 Euide to 2re'enting Squatters Candlords $ould ob'iousl& $ish to a'oid occu!ation b& squatters in the first !lace. Sensible !recautions $ould be7

Kee!ing !ro!erties securel& loo%ed $hen unoccu!ied. Securit& is a landlords0 concern not onl& $hen their !ro!erties are 'acant 4aintain adequate securit& both $hen let and $hen 'acant local !olice $ill ad'ise. Candlords can in theor& be held res!onsible for a residential tenant0s losses if !ro!erties are 'ulnerable to burglaries etc., therefore it is in the landlord0s interest to do this Lacant !remises attract higher insurance !remiums for landlords, so &ou should consult &our insurers about measures the& require &ou to ta%e ta%e $hen &our !ro!erties are 'acant Ei'ing the a!!earance of occu!ation. /a'e curtains or blinds in !lace and !erha!s ha'e a neighbour or cleaners ma%e regular 'isits. Cea'e radios s$itched on, and lights on timers 5ommercial !remises can often be occu!ied on a tem!orar& trading basis, on short*term agreements )u! to months+, !articularl& sho!s 9ence off or adequatel& barricade areas of 'acant land 2ro'ide regular securit& !atrols if necessar& -here are com!anies $ho s!ecialise in !ro'iding tem!orar& occu!iers for 'acant commercial and residential !remises see our Mirector& under Securit& 4a%e regular 'isits to !remises and 'acant land and monitor the situation carefull& Mo not lea'e !remises unoccu!ied for long !eriods. 4ost landlords do not do this as the& $ant to a'oid 'acant !eriods. /o$e'er, there are man& instances $here !ro!erties or land are left 'acant for man& &ears If &ou find an&one occu!&ing &our !ro!ert& $ithout &our consent contact the !olice immediatel&. -he& ma& be able to act $ithout reference to the courts, though the& sometimes need some !ersuasion to do this -r& to be !resent $hen the !olice attend as &ou as o$ner can ad'ise on the true situation and &ou $ant to a'oid further damage to the !remises

If the !olice are unable or not $illing to assist, start legal !roceedings for an Interim 2ossession Order immediatel&

.uide to 2e o)ing Squatters If &ou disco'er tres!assers or squatters in &our !ro!ert& &ou should be able to remo'e them quite legall& $ithin a t$o*$ee% !eriod, !ro'iding &ou go about the !rocess correctl&7

Mo not tr& to use force to remo'e the squatters &ourself &ou could find &ourself accused of a criminal act. /o$e'er, !eaceable re*entr& is legal and acce!table -r& to !ersuade the squatters to lea'e 'oluntaril&, failing $hich7 5ontact the !olice the& should arrest and remo'e squatters from residential !ro!ert&, and the& ma& be $illing to assist $ith commercial )non*residential squatting+ !articularl& if occu!ation is recent and there is e'idence of forced entr&. Hou should ha'e documents to !ro'e o$nershi! $ith &ou -r& to get e'idence to !ro'e to the court that there are unauthorised !ersons in &our !ro!ert& names of tres!assers if !ossible and statements from other residents and neighbours, and !hotogra!hs $ill all be 'er& useful Eet together e'idence of &our o$n o$nershi! Cand .egistr& documents, title deeds, tenanc& surrender documents etc 5ontact bailiffs or a solicitor or start !roceedings &ourself. See our Mirector&7 6ailiffs & In'estigators, Solicitors and Cegal Ser'ices Lisit &our 5ount& 5ourt or the 3ustice.go' $eb site see belo$ -he !rocess can start through the court $ithin 2 da&s Once the correct notices are issued, the court should allocate an earl& hearing date Squatters must be gi'en fi'e clear da&s0 notice and notices must be ser'ed on them !ersonall&, or, failing that, a notice fi;ed to the door of the !ro!ert& -he hearing is usuall& informal. -he squatters ma& turn u! and challenge but the& must ha'e e'idence of a legal interest in the land )e.g., a tenanc&+ other$ise there is no defence to their claim for !ossession and the court should issue an Order for 2ossession With a 2ossession Order the landlord can as% the squatters to lea'e. If the& refuse he $ill need to instruct the court bailiff to e'ict, $ith !olice assistance if necessar& Once !ossession is regained, the loc%s should be changed and the !remises !ro!erl& secured.

4he Squatters9 :iew 4ost squatters belie'e that the& ha'e a right to ma%e use of unoccu!ied !ro!ert& and indeed a siNeable culture of squatting e;ists toda& in the DK. 4an& $eb sites no$ e;ist to ad'ise and su!!ort squatting often squatters occu!&ing &our !ro!ert& %no$ as much, or indeed more, than &ou do about the la$ and their minimum rights. -his e;tract from one site gi'es a fla'our7

OSince 1? @, o'er a quarter of a million !eo!le in 6ritain ha'e $al%ed into an uninhabited house o$ned b& someone else and !roceeded to set u! $ithout see%ing !ermission and $ithout !a&ing rent. 6& doing so, the& ha'e become squatters. Some ha'e been thro$n out $ithin hours. Others ha'e sta&ed for months, e'en &ears, before being e'icted b& bailiffs or lea'ing under threat of a court order. ( fe$ ha'e managed to establish !ermanent homes. 4ost squatting has occurred in old flats and houses in the larger to$ns and cities, but e'er& concei'able t&!e of em!t& !ro!ert& has been squatted from lu;ur& flats to dila!idated slums, from countr& cottages to suburban semis, from old churches to disused factories Squatting is an ancient !ractice, and has occurred at some stage, in different forms, throughout the $orld. Het the last 12 &ears in 6ritain has seen a s!ectacular rise in the number of !eo!le $ho ha'e ta%en o'er em!t& buildings. ,o longer does OsquattingP describe the isolated actions of numerous indi'iduals. Instead, it has become a social mo'ement of great significance, $hose im!act u!on housing !olic& has alread& been considerable, but $hose !otential has &et, !erha!s, to be full& realised.P Ad)erse Possession 7 4he New 2egi e 7 a #rief o)er)iew 2rior to the Land 2egistration Act !""! $L2A !""!%, a squatter could acquire the right to be registered as !ro!rietor of a registered estate if the& had been in ad'erse !ossession of the land for a minimum of 12 &ears. -he C.( 2002 has created a ne$ regime that a!!lies onl& to registered land. -his ne$ regime is set out in Schedule to the (ct. It ma%es it more li%el& that a registered !ro!rietor $ill be able to !re'ent an a!!lication for ad'erse !ossession of their land being com!leted. -he follo$ing !aragra!hs !ro'ide a brief o'er'ie$ of the ne$ regime7

(d'erse !ossession of registered land for 12 &ears of itself $ill no longer affect the registered !ro!rietor0s title (fter 10 &ears0 ad'erse !ossession, the squatter $ill be entitled to a!!l& to be registered as !ro!rietor in !lace of the registered !ro!rietor of the land On an a!!lication being made the registered !ro!rietor )and other !ersons interested in the land+ $ill be notified and gi'en the o!!ortunit& to o!!ose the a!!lication If the a!!lication is not o!!osed, the squatter $ill be registered as !ro!rietor in !lace of the registered !ro!rietor of the land If the a!!lication is o!!osed, it $ill be re:ected unless certain s!ecific criteria are met b& the squatter 3ustice.go' squatting7

htt!s7>>$$$.go'.u%>go'ernment>ne$s>squatting*ne$*criminal*offence

Cand registr& (d'erse 2ossession7 htt!7>>$$$.landregistr&.go'.u%>!rofessional>guides>!ractice*guide*#

6& -om Ent$istle, CandlordQO,ER IM20#1

LandlordZONE All Rights Reserved never rely totally on these general guidelines which apply primarily to England and Wales. hey are not de!initive statements o! the law. "e!ore ta#ing action or not$ always do your own research and%or see# pro!essional advice with the !ull !acts o! your case and all documents to hand.