Do squatter’s rights still exist?

Finding out that squatters are occupying your property is never an ideal situation for landlords or property owners and can even be a distressing experience. One concern for landlords who discover squatters on their premises is whether they have a legal right to be there, and what that means in regards to evicting them.

What is squatting?

Squatting is the action of occupying an unoccupied area or building that the individual does not own or have any legal permission to occupy. 

Do squatter’s rights still exist?

When individuals refer to squatter’s rights, they are referring to legislation that was introduced in 1977. This law made it illegal to make threats or use violence to gain entry to a property where an individual is present and opposes entry. Though this law is not exclusive to situations involving squatters, it is what individuals are referring to when they mention squatter’s rights. However, in law there is no such Act.

However, a change in the law in 2012 has meant that it is now illegal to squat in residential properties, meaning that in all cases, where residential property is concerned squatter’s rights under the housing act have been removed.

Squatting in residential buildings

The change in legislation in 2012 now means that it is illegal to squat in residential buildings. Those found guilty of squatting in a residential property face a maximum jail sentence of six months and/or a £5,000 fine.

Now that squatting in a residential premises is illegal, the eviction process is much quicker as police can now access the building and remove squatters operating under section 17 of PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act), which allows them to enter the property and make arrests.

Squatting in non-residential buildings

The change in law in 2012 only applies to residential properties meaning that individuals squatting in non-residential buildings are not breaking the law and can claim squatter’s rights. However, police can take action if squatters commit other crimes when staying in the property. For example, smashing a window to gain access, stealing, using utilities without permission, fly-tipping or not leaving if told by a court.

What options are available to evict squatters?

Landlords needing to evict squatters from their premises, whether commercial or residential, need to ensure that they follow the correct legal procedures. Using an enforcement agency to regain possession of your property is one of the best ways to make sure that you stay within the law and that the process is completed quickly. An enforcement officer, like the members of our team, can help advise on how the eviction needs to be carried out, and whether an Interim Possession Order or Court Order is required.

If you are a property owner or landlord and currently have issues with squatters occupying your building, then Able Investigations can help. We are experienced in evicting commercial squatters in Bristol and throughout the UK and always operate quickly and within the law. Speak to a member of our professional team on 0845 370 7401 or email [email protected]

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