The process of evicting squatters – what can be done to help
Squatter evictions in the UK are something which many property landlords and property owners will need to undertake at one point or another throughout their ownership of residential or commercial properties in the UK.
However, not known by many, removing squatters from a property is sometimes more difficult than it perhaps should be.
It is therefore very important that landlords, property owners and even managers of properties that are sitting vacant, are aware of the processes and laws involved when it comes to squatter evictions. Prevention and effective property security are always better solutions to the potential problem of squatters in your property. Hence, as soon as you are aware that your property is going to be vacant, it is worth contacting specialists such as County ERT.
What Exactly Is Squatting?
By definition in England and Wales, squatting is a term used to refer to a person or a number of people who are not the owners of a property or land and who take possession of unoccupied land or empty property. In short, someone enters land or a property deliberately with the intention to live in it.
The main reasons attributed to why people squat in the UK include things like poverty, homelessness, protest and recreation. Many of the squatting sites are of residential nature and some are also opened up as social centres. Many companies turn to eviction services experts to undertake and manage this process.
Evicting Squatters – Residential Properties
It is currently illegal to squat in a residential property such as a house or flat or other homes. Squatting in residential premises can lead to a sentence of 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine or a combination of both, a hefty price to pay for unwanted guests.
However, if a person is renting a property and they fall behind on payments but continue to live there, it is not considered squatting. This is because they have received prior permission to be in the property by the landlord and have signed up to the terms of their contract, including actions should they fall behind with rental payments.
Evicting Squatters – Non Residential Properties
A non-residential property refers to any land or building which is not designed to be lived in, like an office block, café or shop, commonly referred to as commercial premises. To maintain the validity of an empty property’s insurance policy, you should also undertake regular vacant property inspections, as most insurers will require this.
Squatter’s usually target non-residential properties as the law does not as clearly prohibit their presence in these types of buildings since they are more open to the public. In the majority of cases, the police can only usually act if the squatters are committing other crimes such as:
- Stealing from the property
- Using utilities without permission, such as gas and electrics
- Not obeying a noise abatement notice
- Causing damage to the property when entering (e.g. smashing a window)
- Causing damage whilst occupying the property
- Not vacating the property when ordered by a court
The laws on removing squatters can seem rather confusing in England and Wales. Technically, it is the law that you are not permitted to remove squatters by force or the threat of force because if you do so, it may in fact be you that is committing the crime. For some property owners, it may even at times be necessary to take out a short term loan such as a payday loan in order to fund the court process of removing squatters from a property. If left in the property for a prolonged period of time, squatters could inflict a great deal of damage, incurring heavy costs.