Squatting is defined as entering someone else’s property without their permission with the intention of living there. Squatting in a residential property is illegal and can incur a six-month prison sentence, a £5,000 fine, or both. It is not currently a crime to squat in a non-residential property.
A person is not a squatter if they entered the property with the permission of the landlord; for example, a tenant with overdue rent is not a squatter.
Securing your property
The best way to avoid giving uninvited residents rights is by ensuring they are not able to access the property to start with. Good security and the swift repair of broken entrances are essential when it comes to avoiding having to deal with squatters.
If you notice any broken windows, you will need a company that can act promptly to ensure nobody is able to access your property. Leicester emergency glaziers such as https://www.nanduglass.co.uk/boarding-up will respond within one hour, all day, every day.
When do squatters gain rights?
If a squatter has been living in and has full control of a property for 10 years, or 12 years if not registered with HM Land Registry (HMLR), they can apply for ownership of the property.
To do this, the squatters would need to complete a form for adverse possession and a statement of truth, signed by a solicitor, to present to HMLR. HMLR will then contact the landlord, who has 65 days to object before the squatter(s) are granted ownership.
If the landlord objects within 65 days, the application will usually be rejected; however, the squatters will be able to apply again in another two years if there has not been an attempt to remove them.
How do you remove squatters from your property?
Once you have discovered squatters in your property, you have 28 days to apply to the courts for an interim possession order (IPO) to remove them; otherwise, you will have to apply for a claim for possession.
Once the IPO has been issued, the squatters will need to leave your property within 24 hours and stay away for at least 12 months. If they do not comply, they can be sent to prison.
You should not attempt to remove the squatters yourself, as this can be a crime.