Squatting in a residential building as a long-term trespasser is a criminal offence. How might this affect you?
The displaced homeowner
Until the law was changed some years ago squatters often took up occupation in people’s houses when they were on holiday or in hospital. Bold squatters even asserted ‘squatters’ rights’ forcing homeowners to swear an oath as to their position before bailiffs could be called in. Now such an act is an arrestable offence, and the police can be called to effect entry and remove them.
The owner of empty property
Previously an empty or derelict residential property was treated like a commercial property, in that you would require a court order to remove squatters. Now the police can be called if your property was designed or adapted for residential use.
The commercial property owner
The criminal law only applies to residential property.
The informal residential tenant
An unscrupulous landlord might claim to the police that a tenant is a squatter and seek to remove them on that basis. However tenants normally have plenty of evidence (tenancy agreement, bills, correspondence, rent payments) to show that they are not a squatter.
The squatter’s position
A squatter might have a defence to the charge if they did not enter as a trespasser (ie they had a tenancy, licence or consent from someone who wasn’t a trespasser), if they didn’t know and ought not to have known they were a trespasser, or if they have not lived in the building.
Slee Blackwell can assist whenever squatters cause you a problem with your property.