Squatting in a residential building as a long-term trespasser became a criminal offence as of 1 September 2012. How might this affect you?
The displaced homeowner
Before, squatters might take up occupation in your house when you were on holiday or in hospital. This was uncommon, but distressing. Bold squatters might assert ‘squatters’ rights’ and uncertain homeowners would at the very least have to swear an oath as to their position before bailiffs could be called in. Now such an act would be an arrestable offence, and the police can be called to effect entry and remove them. If the squatters are not committing the offence for the reasons below, though, there is no new power. A second home is no different to a first under the new law or the old law.
The owner of empty property
Whereas before an empty or derelict residential property was treated like a commercial property, in that you would require a court order, now the police can be called if your property was designed or adapted for residential use.
The commercial property owner
The new law concerns only residential property. If you do see any change, it may be more squatters, who have now considered residential property to be too high a risk. You will need a court order to remove genuine squatters.
The informal residential tenant
An unscrupulous landlord might claim to the police that you are a squatter and seek to remove you on that basis. It would be a fairly transparent ruse, though, as you have plenty of evidence (tenancy agreement, bills, correspondence, rent payments) that you are not a squatter.
You might have a defence to the charge if you did not enter as a trespasser (ie you had a tenancy, licence or consent from someone who wasn’t a trespasser), if you didn’t know and ought not to have known you were a trespasser, or if you have not lived in the building.
Slee Blackwell can assist on each side of the equation. As poachers and gamekeepers, we know the tactics the other side might use.
For removing squatters from commercial properties, call Nick Arthur, Iain Robinson or Emma Reed. For criminal defence work, call Zara Svensson. All on 01271 37218