SQUATTING RIGHTS 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.
Note: Squatting 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.
Being 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 2022: 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:
- You, or a succession of squatters, have occupied the property continuously for 10 years (12 years if not registered with Land Registry).
- You (or your predecessors) acted as owners of the property for the whole of that time.
- You (or any of your predecessors) did not have the owner’s permission (e.g. the property was not originally rented to a squatter).
What if the Property is Registered?
- Fill in form ADV1 which relates to the law of adverse possession UK.
- Complete and sign a written ‘statement of truth form ST!‘ (or use a solicitor for this).
- Send your form and statement to the 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:
- The owner did not try to remove you.
- The property did not get reclaimed.
- You are still in possession of the property.
Land Registry will usually then register you as the owner.
What if the Property is Unregistered?
- Complete and sign a written ‘statement of truth‘ (or use a solicitor for this part).
- Apply for first registration (e.g. registering land or property with HM Land Registry).
- Remember to include your statement with your application.
Land Registry will then:
- Inspect the property (there is a fee for this service).
- Determine whether your application is valid or not.
- 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.
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.
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.
Note: You can report an abandoned property or derelict building to the building control department at the local council.
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.
Note: It is best to get legal advice from a solicitor if you need any help making a claim for possession.
Never 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)
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:
- Leave your land or property within 24 hours.
- 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 do the possession claim online or perform it on your IPO application form.
You cannot use an interim possession order if you are:
- Also making a claim for property damages caused by the squatters. In this case you should make an ordinary claim for possession.
- Trying to evict former private tenants, licensees, or sub-tenants.
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:
- Find people squatting inside a residential property that you own.
- See someone breaking into land or buildings anywhere.
- Think someone may be squatting.
Note: The Home Secretary announced sweeping new powers that police forces can use to tackle unauthorised encampments (e.g. trespassers who use vehicles to reside on land).
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.