Do squatters have a right to stay in unoccupied premises?

Residential squatters

The offence of squatting is committed when a person (1) is in a residential building as a trespasser; (2) knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and (3) is living in the building or intends to live there for any period. A person that is found guilty of the offence is liable to be convicted for up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000 or both.

Non-Residential squatters

Owners of non-residential property can only involve the police if there are clear signs of criminal damage. However, generally, signs of forced entry may not be considered sufficient evidence alone by the police.
Additional crimes include (as stated on the Government website):

  • Causing damage when entering the property
  • Causing damage while in the property
  • Not leaving when they’re told to by a court
  • Stealing from the property
  • Using utilities like electricity or gas without permission
  • Fly-tipping
  • Not obeying a noise abatement notice

If the police do not get involved, the owners are faced with two options; either standard summary possession proceedings or an application for an interim possession order (IPO), both of which involve at least one trip to court.

The most commonly used of the two is summary possession proceedings. A claim is issued in the local County Court and, in the case of non-residential property, the squatters must be given at least 2 days between service of the claim and the hearing date. The court should make a possession order requiring the squatters to give up possession of the property immediately.
However, if left to the County Court bailiffs to carry out the eviction proceedings, it can potentially result in it taking up to several more weeks.

For that reason, if the speed of eviction is important, it is often preferable to have the claim transferred to the High Court so that an eviction can be carried out by High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) which in turn will result in a much speedier eviction, although it will be at a greater cost.

Able Investigations can help you deal with commercial squatters, we work with a team of HCEOs who can help you if you have a judgement issued by the High Court. Call us on 0845 370 7401 to speak to a member of our experienced team or fill out our contact form.

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