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How to Evict Squatters from your property or land

How to Evict Squatters from your property or land
How to Evict Squatters from your property or land

Finding that squatters have gained unlawful entry to your property and have begun living there without consent can be stressful – with untold damage to the fabric of the building, draining utilities if these are connected, and often stripping assets such as radiators and leaving hazardous debris.

Properties that are targeted by squatters commonly attract other problem behaviours, such as fly-tipping, drug use and vandalism, making swift action an absolute priority for the owner.

Landlords may also have difficulties finding a legitimate, paying tenant if a property is known to be used by squatters or if they need to invest substantial amounts into repairing, deep cleaning and redecorating a premise once squatters have left.

Let’s look at what to do to remove squatters from your property – and some useful tips to protect your property from this type of unwanted attention.

Disclaimer: The information provided on clearway.co.uk is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice or relied upon as a substitute for professional legal counsel on the subject of debt, lease or eviction-related matters. Any reliance you place on the information provided on clearway.co.uk is strictly at your own risk. We shall not be liable for any loss or damage, including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information presented on this website.

Who Counts as a Squatter?

This question is perhaps surprisingly common since landlords may feel that a tenant who has outstayed the end date within their lease terms or believes they have a right to occupy the building is considered a squatter from a legal perspective.

In short, a squatter is somebody who accesses a building or refuses to leave when they have been lawfully and compliantly evicted and intends to live in the property against the wishes and without the permission of the owner.

The law differs depending on whether the property is a commercial unit or a residential building. While squatting is a criminal offence in a residential home, this doesn’t apply to commercial premises.

However, squatters who break into a building and cause damage are committing a crime. Tenants who have stopped paying rent may also be considered squatters.

Unfortunately, the police rarely respond to reports of squatters in a commercial building unless there is evidence of another crime. Landlords, therefore, normally need to take action by applying to the courts and working with an experienced, certified enforcement agent.

How to Remove a Squatter From a Commercial Premise

The term ‘squatters’ rights’ is often used but commonly misunderstood. The Criminal Law Act 1977 does provide some protections in Section 6, which are intended to stop landlords from evicting tenants without notice or justification.

That can mean that a landlord could be prosecuted for trying to physically remove a squatter or for attempting to order a squatter to leave while the latter is physically at the property.

Likewise, resorting to aggression, intimidation, or force is likely to be treated as an offence – making it imperative a landlord consult a capable agent to ensure they follow the correct procedures.

We’ll work through the potential process step by step – noting that, in some cases, the police may intervene to react to criminal breaking and entering. It remains good practice to inform the local police of a squatting scenario.

However, this is more of a courtesy and to raise awareness should any future communications escalate and require a police presence.

Step One: Serving an Eviction Notice Against a Squatter

The first step is to serve formal notice, which instructs the squatter to leave the premises and stating a finite date by which they must have vacated – this time period should be ‘reasonable’. Many landlords opt to apply to the courts for an Interim Possession Order, or IPO and need to file a request within 28 days of identifying the squatters.

IPOs can be used where the landlord has discovered the presence of a squatter within the last 28 days, can verify that they are trespassing rather than a former tenant or subtenant, and doesn’t wish to make a legal claim for damages.

If any of these conditions do not apply, the landlord should submit a Possession Claim. This process involves court action that enables the landlord to repossess a property.

Provided the court approves the IPO request, the landlord will receive a formal set of documents to serve to the squatter within 48 hours. Most delegate this responsibility to their enforcement agent to avoid any accusations of improper behaviour and to ensure the right procedures are followed.

A squatter who has been served with an IPO order has 24 hours to leave and is prohibited from returning for a year. Breaking either of the terms within the notice can mean exposure to prison sentences of up to six months.

Need help with this? Get in contact with our squatter removal team here. 

How to Prevent Squatters from Accessing Your Property

While the above process can be fairly straightforward when handled by an established enforcement team, the stress and time delays can be challenging, along with the costs of applying to the courts for eviction notices, managing the aftermath when the squatter has left, and employing the services of an agent.

The ideal option is to take preventative action to ensure your premise is never an enticing prospect for a squatter and is inaccessible to anybody without access permissions.

Here are a few of the tried and tested ways to keep squatters at bay:

  • Installing steel security screens and doors ensures that all windows and entrances are impenetrable. Only those with a security passcode or a special key can enter the property.
  • Using vacant property alarm systems. If you report an intruder immediately to the police or your security provider when an intruder alarm is triggered, you may be able to prevent a squatter from settling into your premises or stop an attempted intrusion in its tracks.
  • Fitting security systems such as CCTV cameras with remote monitoring will act as a deterrent to prospective squatters and other trespassers. As with alarms, surveillance ensures you can respond straight away when movement is detected.
  • Regular property inspections help to detect any likelihood that a squatter is surveying the property, has tried to tamper with the locks or doors, and provides a visible presence.

Landlords can also remove or cut back trees close to the entrances, keep the property clean and tidy inside and out, remove signs that the premise is empty, such as piles of junk mail, and switch off the utilities.

For any further information about safeguarding your property from squatters or evicting squatters from a premise, please get in touch at any time at evictions@clearway.co.uk to discuss the right resolutions.

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