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After carrying out an extensive consultation exercise, which closed in October 2011, squatting in residential properties has now become a criminal offence.
Criminal squatting occurs when:
- a person knowingly enters a residential building as a trespasser (or should have known they were trespassing); and
- lives in it or intends to live in it for any period.
If a property you own is occupied by squatters, persuading the police to take action can be a difficult job and it is crucially important to be able to demonstrate conclusively your right to take action to recover your property. Do not be surprised if the squatters claim that you have entered into a lease with them, and be prepared to refute such claims and have the necessary proof available at the beginning.
If your property is occupied by squatters, we can assist you in obtaining possession.
A 2014 court decision confirmed that even though squatting is a criminal offence, a squatter who occupies a property for 10 years (registered land) or 12 years (unregistered land), can nonetheless apply for the legal title to be transferred to them. Under the current law relating to adverse possession, notices must be given to the current title holder.
If you receive such a notice or have land which you allow anyone else to use and treat as their own without appropriate legal arrangements being in place, contact us for advice.
For more information, see the UK Government guide to squatting on options for dealing with squatters.