Squatters. How do you prevent this happening? How do you remove them if it does? Don’t despair it is possible to evict squatters and regain your property. Squatters are people who do not have a right to be in your property. There is no legal definition of ‘squatter’ they are actually trespassers on your property.
Firstly, squatting in residential buildings is illegal and can lead to 6 months in prison, a £5000 fine or both. There are several avenues open to you as a landlord to evict illegal occupants but you should be careful to follow the law. A DIY approach is possible but to do this you have to peacefully get into your property and change the locks. You cannot use violent or forceful entry if a squatter is in residence and opposes you. We would never recommend taking a DIY approach without at least taking legal advice first however. Squatters will normally have changed the locks anyway and usually have someone guarding the property. In this case you will need to use the special court process which takes three or four weeks at best. There is legal help for a Protected Intending Occupier – if the property was formerly your home or somewhere that you were about to move into then you have a right to get back in as a Protected Intending Occupier, under section 7 of the 1977 Act.
"Preventing squatters getting in is of course the best option. Keep your property secure, check it regularly, especially between tenancies. Always rely on a thorough reference check before letting to new tenants – check with former landlords that they haven’t abandoned a former property owing rent." advises Dispute Resolution Partner Michelle Hayter. Squatters know their rights – there are many websites giving them advice and they are usually well organised. Always seek proper legal advice before proceeding with an eviction.
Please note that this article only applies to residential premises not to non-residential.
Our Dispute Resolution Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and Michelle or a member of the team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have.