It may come to many landlords surprise that if they have squatters they are not able to just turf them out without risking prosecution themselves.
Today in the UK there are estimated to be as many as 20,000 squatters.
Recently, there have been some very high profile cases in London where multi million pound properties have been taken over by squatters. The landlords of these luxury properties have then been powerless to enter their own properties.
Help for squatters!
A two minute search on Google reveals that there is a huge amount of assistance available for illegal tenants who are thinking of squatting.
They even supply potential squatters with certificates that they can use to warn off illegal action by landlords or owners of the property that they are squatting in!
The law as it stands
The law surrounding squatting is some what complicated. Up until the arrival of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 squatting itself was not a criminal act, but now it may be, if it involves violent or forced entry by unauthorized occupiers, however the police can’t automatically remove squatters.
A landlord first requires a possession order from the courts.
The quickest way of obtaining possession is to obtain an interim possession order. This order is pending a judge’s decision to grant a full possession order and if granted requires squatters to leave within 24 hours and then not return within 12 months.
In order to get one of these orders a landlord needs to make a claim within 28 days of finding out that they have squatters. They will also have to give the squatters five days’ notice and serve the hearing notices on them in person – or fix the notice to the door of the house.
The police are able to prosecute squatters under the criminal law for Trespass under the Criminal Law Act 1977 if it can be established that they have broken into the property. This is why it is so important for a landlord to fully secure and make regular inspections of an empty property. As well as the potential threat of squatters landlords should be aware that their landlord insurance may be invalidated if it has been empty for a prolonged period without notification to the insurer.
Government announces fight back
Housing Minister Grant Shapps has announced a fight back against squatters by looking to make squatting a criminal offence in 2012.
The Ministry of Justice has responded by publishing a booklet on property rights to help clarify the law.
The new Housing Minister Grant Shapps has set out his stall:
“Let me be clear: squatters are not above the law.
I can assure homeowners that we understand the strength of public feeling about this issue and that’s why we are urgently taking steps to lock the door to so-called "squatters’ rights" once and for all. “
What are you thoughts and experiences on squatters ?