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Squatters and the law

Few things are likely to generate an increase in the blood pressure of many landlords than the subject of squatters.

Unfortunately, no brief article of this nature can cover a multitude of different situations that might be defined as squatting or indeed the various complicated legal implications arising from them.

What follows is a brief discussion of some of the basic principles. If you have any specific questions, you may wish to read the government’s website* and possibly to contemplate legal advice.

Squatting is defined by law not landlords

Remember that because you consider someone in your property to be a squatter, doesn’t necessarily mean that the law will agree.

For example, a tenant that you have issued with a notice to vacate but who stays stubbornly put, is not a squatter. As a general principle, the term relates to individuals who have forced entry to an unoccupied property without due legal permissions etc.

Let the law and others resolve it for you

Over recent decades the law has changed to give groups such as the police considerably more powers to deal with squatters than they may have had at one time.

In the event that you discover that your property has been illegally occupied, you should immediately notify the police without delay. Squatting is now illegal.

It might be reasonable to politely insist upon squatters leaving your property and perhaps to hand them a letter confirming that they are occupying it illegally.

Do not go round to your property for a confrontation or attempt to sort things out yourself. This is potentially a recipe for conflict and that might undermine your legal position.

Commercial property is different

The law on squatting is more complicated in situations where your property is defined as commercial rather than residential.

In such cases, you may need to seek a form of court order to force the eviction of the parties concerned.

Prevention is better than cure

In the case of residential properties, it might be inevitably the case that they will occasionally stand for extended periods unoccupied. That might be in circumstances such as renovation or redecoration etc.

You should take all reasonable steps to try to disguise the fact that your property is unoccupied. That is perhaps also likely to be useful in terms of deterring thieves and vandals who may be more reluctant to try and enter a property if it appears to be occupied.

In passing, keep in mind that you may need to check your landlords insurance quote if your property is sitting unoccupied. Typically it might only maintain cover for a specified number of consecutive days, after which you may need unoccupied property insurance.

Stay calm

Today, squatting may be rare when compared to what might have been the case some decades ago. Problems may be relatively quickly resolved and frustrating as it may be if it happens to you, a little patience might be necessary.


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