Squatting in a residential property in the UK is against the law, but to get rid of squatters you must follow strict legal procedures. In this article we’ll be exploring the laws around squatting and showing you what you can do to carry out the successful and ethical eviction of trespassers on your property.
What is a squatter?
A squatter is someone who is residing in a premises that they do not have permission to live in. Squatters arise from a number of different situations including:
- Someone who breaks into or enters a vacant property and begins living there
- A tenant who stops paying rent and keeps living on the property
- The roommate or subletter of a property that begins to live in a property past their rental period
- Anyone who believes they have a right to live on a property that is not currently titled to them
What damage is caused by squatters?
When a landlord first notices that a former tenant is overstaying their rental period or that their property is being lived in by unwanted guests, it may be confusing and even tempting to let them stay there for a few weeks in hopes that they will leave on their own.
As tempting as that idea maybe, you should never allow a squatter to remain uncontested on your property. Inadvertently, you may be contributing to the squatter obtaining rights to your property. A squatter who has occupied land or property for a specified period of time could make a claim to be the registered owner.
If these rights come into fruition, evicting them will be even more difficult, so it’s important to know how to remove squatters efficiently and legally.
Squatters do more than just occupy your property. These unwanted visitors can cause a lot of other grief and damage to your business:
- An eviction process can take months or even years and is very expensive.
- You will lose out on rent.
- The property can (and likely will) be damaged.
- Valuables held at the property can be stolen.
- Utilities & other bills can pile up and put additional debt on the property.
- The longer you go without contacting them about leaving, the stronger their case is to stay.
- As you can see, allowing squatters to remain on your property is not an option, and you should act swiftly.
How to legally get rid of squatters
Now that you’ve seen what damage squatters can cause to your property, you need to know how you can evict them according to the law.
These are the steps you’ll need to follow to get rid of squatters legally in the UK:
- Call the police immediately
When you find someone on your property, call the police. They can determine if the person is a trespasser or a squatter. If they are a trespasser, the police will consider it a criminal issue and remove them. If they are a squatter, the police will likely prefer not to get involved immediately, but at least can you show that you’ve alerted the authorities to the matter.
- Serve an eviction notice
Serve the squatter with an eviction notice. Be sure to follow any local requirements about the information that must be included in the eviction notice. Many squatters leave at the threat of legal action, if they do you’re good to go. If not, move on to step 3.
- Issue an Interim Possession Order (IPO)
You can apply for an Interim Possession Order if you’ve discovered your property has been subject to squatting within the last 28 days. You can file an IPO and send it to the county court in your local area. The courts then send you a confirmation and documents that you then issue to the squatters within 48 hours.
Once a squatter has been served with the IPO, they could be sent to prison if they fail to leave within 24 hours or fail to keep away from the property for the following 12 months.
- Claiming possession
To repossess your property, you need to claim possession. This can be done on the IPO form or online separately. However, you cannot use the IPO if you want to claim damages that the squatters caused, or if you are evicting a former tenant or sub-letter. You could make a possession claim if you discovered the squatting over 28 days ago.
If you’d like assistance removing squatters from your property in the UK, get in touch with County Enforcement today. For over four decades County have established a reputation as one of the leading ethical and successful eviction and trespasser removal companies within the UK. Our comprehensive approach coupled with our extensive wealth of experience enables us to assess and safely remove unauthorised trespassers from your land or property in as little as 24 hours.