Squatters – definition & prevention
With an increase in empty and abandoned properties in the UK, illegal squatting has increased in both city and rural settings.
Squatting can be defined as the act of occupying or inhabiting a vacant property without the implicit or explicit permission of the owner nor tenant, usually with the intent of claiming it as one own possession and residence. This act goes as far back as to postwar Europe, when occupants of cities would seek restitution for the damages brought to their own dwellings as a result of the conflict. These days, however, squatting is mostly practiced by the homeless as a mean to find a temporary shelter without incurring in renting, illegal due to inability to pay or do not having a valid ID for the session of a writ of execution. From a legal standpoint of view this can be considered unsatisfactory when falling into the eyes of the jurisprudence and viewed as unlawful activity which could result in eviction and potential criminal prosecution.
Under current UK law, squatters have limited rights and can be evicted by property owners under certain circumstances. The first step in evicting squatters is to issue them with a notice to leave the property. This can be done by the property owner, a representative of the owner, or by the police. The notice must give the squatters a minimum of two days to vacate the property, and it must be posted on the property or given to the squatters directly.
If the squatters refuse to leave the property after receiving the notice, the property owner can apply to the court for a possession order. The court may grant the possession order if it is satisfied that the property is not the squatters’ home, that the property owner is entitled to possession, and that the notice to leave was validly given.
There are some circumstances in which squatters may have greater rights and may be more difficult to evict. For example, if the squatters have been living in the property for a long period of time, they may be able to claim adverse possession. This means that they may be able to gain legal ownership of the property if they have occupied it openly and continuously for a certain period of time.
In addition, if the property is a residential property and the squatters are living there as their home, the property owner must obtain a court order before evicting them. The court will only grant the order if it is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so, taking into account the rights of the squatters and any other relevant circumstances.
In all cases, its usually easier to prevent illegal entry to a vacant property than to evict when breached. To discuss illegal access prevention, please contact us.