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Squatters Rights and House Squatting Laws

Squatters Rights: UK Squatting Laws

What is squatting and what is squatters rights in the United Kingdom? Squatting is the adverse possession and occupation of abandoned land or buildings.

SQUATTING LAWS UK: This guide explains squatting and the law on house squatting and squatters.

Squatters' rights is a contentious issue of homelessness and for many homeless people.

But you will find information about removing squatters from property in the United Kingdom.

Squatting inside a residential building is illegal unless the squatter owns, rents or has lawful permission to occupy it.

How can you be sure squatters are occupying your land or house? People are squatting if they intentionally enter the property and live there without permission.

In fact the same house squatting laws apply even if they 'intend' to live there. In terms of squatter rights and squatting United Kingdom calls this the 'law of adverse possession'.

As a rule it is a crime not to leave land or property when instructed to do so. Instruction can come from the police, the owner, the council, or by a repossession order.

Squatting on non-residential land or in a non-residential building is not a crime. But it is a crime to damage any of the land or the property.

Entering a property with the permission of the landlord means you are not a squatter. So if you fall behind with rent payments on a rented property, you are not breaching the law on squatting by continuing to live there.

Important Information iconSquatting inside residential buildings is illegal (e.g. a flat, a house, or office). Illegal squatting can result in a £5,000 fine, 6 months in prison, or both.

Squatters Rights UK: Non Residential Property

In squatting terms what is a non-residential property? Non residential buildings or land are those designed not to get lived in.

Squatting and the Law: Squatters Rights UKBeing on non-residential property without the owner's permission is not always a crime.

But, the police can take action against squatters for committing other crimes. Offences include causing damage when entering or staying inside a non-residential property.

Squatter crimes can also include:

Note: You should contact the police if you see someone breaking into a property or causing damage to it.

Squatters Rights 2017: Property and Land

In some cases a long-term squatter can become the registered owner of land or property. This happens most when squatters take up long-term occupation without permission from the owner.

Note: How does a squatter in a property claim ownership? You should get legal advice from a conveyancer or a law society solicitor.

You can apply to claim squatting rights on land in England if you can prove:

What if the Property is Registered?

  1. Fill in the correct form related to the law of adverse possession UK.
  2. Complete and sign a written 'statement of truth' (or use a solicitor for this).
  3. Send your form and statement to the Land Registry Citizen Centre.

Land Registry
Citizen Centre
PO Box 74
Gloucester GL14 9BB

Land Registry will then determine whether your application is valid. They will also inform the property owner.

The property owner has 65 days in which to object. If they object then your application will get an automatic rejection, as a rule.

If there is no objection you get registered as the owner of the land or property.

You can apply once more after 2 years providing:

Land Registry will usually then register you as the owner.

What if the Property is Unregistered?

  1. Complete and sign a written 'statement of truth' (or use a solicitor for this part).
  2. Apply for first registration.
  3. Remember to include your statement with your application.

Land Registry will then:

  1. Inspect the property (there is a fee for this service).
  2. Determine whether your application is valid or not.
  3. Inform the property owner (if they have their contact details).

What happens if the owners object? In this case you can try to come to an agreement with them. If you cannot agree (or choose not to) Land Registry will help you arrange a tribunal. The tribunal will help decide who the genuine owner of the property is.

In most cases you may have to pay the legal costs of the owner no matter what the outcome is.

How to Stop Squatters Legally Possessing Property

What should you do if the Land Registry tells you that squatters applied for legal ownership of your property? They can only inform you if the property got registered in your name. But, you must take swift action if you want to keep the property registered to you.

The method used to block an application depends on whether your property got registered with Land Registry or not.

Note: You should get legal advice from a solicitor or conveyancer if squatters try to claim your property.

Registered Property

Owners of a registered property get 65 days to object an application. Once you make your objection the Land Registry will inform you how to proceed.

UK Land Registry will reject the squatters' application if you have a valid objection.

There may further action needed after a squatter claim gets rejected. You may need to take action to remove the squatters from your property. You can only reclaim your property in full once you remove the squatters.

You cannot object again if you did nothing within 2 years of the original application if the same squatters reapply.

Unregistered Property

Land Registry will inform you how to object to a squatter's application. But, Land Registry cannot always contact the owners of unregistered properties.

The Land Registry decides if your objection is valid. If so, they will ask whether you want to negotiate a deal with the squatters. That could mean offering to sell the property to them.

If you cannot agree a deal you can get help from the Land Registry to set up a tribunal. A tribunal can determine who the legal owner of the property is.

How to Remove Squatters UK

How can you remove squatters from your house in the United Kingdom? As a rule you should remove squatters using an interim possession order (IPO). Another method of removing squatters is by making a full claim for possession.

It is best to get legal advice from a solicitor if you need any help making a claim for possession.

Important Information iconNever use physical force to remove the squatters yourself. Using, or threatening to use, force is committing a crime in the United Kingdom.

Interim Possession Order (IPO)

You should apply for an IPO within 28 days of finding out your property got squatted. You must fill in an application for an IPO and then send it to your local county court.

The court then sends confirmation of your IPO a few days' later. The court will also send you documents to hand over to the squatters. You should give them these court papers within 48 hours.

After getting served with an IPO, the squatters can get sent to prison if they fail to:

  1. Leave your land or property within 24 hours.
  2. Stay away from your land or property for 12 months.

How do you get final possession of your property? You must make a claim for possession. You can either perform this on your IPO application form or do it online.

IPO Exceptions

You cannot use an interim possession order if you are:

Claim for Possession

You should make a claim for possession if more than 28 days passed since you found out about the squatters.

How to Report Squatters in United Kingdom

You should call the police if you:

Advice and Information about Squatting and the Law

Unfortunately you may get classed as homeless if you violate the law on squatting. You can get advice from your local council or Shelter in England and Wales.

Shelter Housing and Homelessness Charity

Shelter believes everyone should have a home. Over a million people contact them each year for help and support about eviction of excluded occupiers. You can get more advice from Shelter in England, Wales, Scotland, and for squatters rights NI.

Also in this section...

Housing and Local Services: Information on local government housing rules and regional services.
Emergency Council Housing: How to get emergency housing if you are homeless in the United Kingdom.
Accelerated Possession Procedure: Find out what it is and how to get an accelerated possession order.
Housing Association Eviction: The eviction procedures of council or housing association tenants.
Eviction Process for Private Renting: What is the eviction process for private tenants in the UK?
Court Hearing for Tenant Eviction: How does a court possession hearing proceed in England?
House Repossession Process: A guide explaining the legal process of house repossessions in the UK.

Squatters Rights UK: Law of Adverse Possession in the United Kingdom