Property Saviour logo
Call Me Back, Please

What Are Squatters Rights In UK?

Property Saviour » Empty Properties » What Are Squatters Rights In UK?

Squatters’ rights – also known as adverse possession – can be established if a property has been continuously occupied by squatters for 10 years without any breaks.

Even if the property is not registered with HM Land Registry, this period is extended to 12 years. The process remains valid even if the property has been occupied by multiple squatters at different times.

For the squatters to register as the new owners of the property, they must demonstrate that they have acted responsibly in their role as owners. This could include paying utility bills or taking care of the property over a prolonged period. To learn more, keep reading.

Table of Contents

What is Squatting?

Squatting is the act of taking up residence in an unoccupied building without the permission of the property owners until the legally stipulated period has passed.

After this time has elapsed, the person in question may be able to claim ownership of the property, provided they can satisfy the necessary legal requirements.

A squat is a property in which individuals, known as squatters, reside without the permission of the owner.

Why Does Squatting Happen?

Squatting of both residential and non-residential properties has been practised for centuries. One common cause of squatting is homelessness, often due to the unaffordability of rents, eviction from a property or repossession.

It can also be used for political or social protest and recreational purposes. There is a large housing shortage in the UK, yet many property owners have empty properties that they do not want to sell or refurbish.

Is Squatting Against the Law
Squatting in an unoccupied, non-residential, or commercial property is not illegal.

Is Squatting Against the Law?

Squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence. Offenders could face up to six months in jail or a £5,000 fine, or both in some cases. It is important to note that if the squatter entered the property legally, they cannot be arrested for trespassing.

This may be the case if the squatter was a former tenant of the property and remained after their tenancy ended.

Squatting in an unoccupied, non-residential, or commercial property is not illegal. However, squatters may be subject to police intervention if they have committed a criminal offence, such as vandalism during the adverse possession process.

However, many squatters have locksmith friends who can pick the locks for them, thus making it impossible to prove that they have acted criminally.  Police will treat this as a civil matter because the squatters will claim the door was already open.

How Can Squatters Legally Take Ownership of Properties?

To claim ownership of a property through squatting, an individual must complete an “adverse possession” form and sign a “statement of truth”. This must then be sent to HM Land Registry. The Land Registry will then inform the property owner of any claim of adverse possession.

  • The owner of the property may reject the claim and reclaim the property or evict the squatter by obtaining an “IPO” (Interim Possession Order) within 65 days. If this does not occur, the squatter may reapply after two years if the owner has not attempted to remove them, and the property has not been reclaimed.
  • The squatter is still living on the property.

HM Land Registry would then usually register the squatters as the new owners.

If the property is not registered, the squatter must first register the property with HM Land Registry. The statement of truth must then be attached to the registration form when applying for ownership.  They will be issued with a possessory title.

It is important to note that squatting or adverse possession refers to occupying a property without permission.

If the owner granted permission within the required 10 years (or 12 years if the property is unregistered), this does not count as valid squatting; the individual or individuals involved cannot claim ownership of the property.

How to Get Rid of Squatters?

Dealing with squatters can be a very unpleasant experience. Many people think they are entitled and may put up a fight.

To avoid the hassle and stress, some property owners choose to sell through auction or to a private property-buying company. However, if you deal with the situation early enough, the law is generally on your side. If you discover someone or a group of people are occupying your property without permission, the police should be your first port of call.

They will likely advise you to serve a formal eviction notice. In most cases, squatters will leave after the threat of legal action. If they don’t, an Interim Possession Order (IPO) may be the best solution.

To prevent the situation from occurring in the first place, it is important to:

  • Occupy your properties and buildings quickly;
  • Make sure your property is secure and hard to access;
  • Inspect your property regularly;
  • Consider using a “property guardian” service;
  • Install CCTV,
  • Flood lights or hire monitoring security if needed;
  • Advise the local police station the property is empty; 
  • Shut off all gas, electricity, and water.
What is an IPO
The IPO order requires squatters to vacate the premises within 24 hours, or they may be arrested by the police and face legal action.

What is an IPO?

An Interim Possession Order (IPO) is a legal mechanism which enables property owners to evict any squatters from their premises, according to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994.

This order is issued prior to a court hearing, and should the court decide that the squatter is an illegal trespasser, it will make the eviction permanent.

The IPO order requires squatters to vacate the premises within 24 hours, or they may be arrested by the police and face legal action. If they return to the property within a year of their eviction from an IPO, they will be committing a criminal offence.

But you will find that different squatters will return as your IPO will be issued to ‘unnamed individuals’, so you’d have to apply again.

Prior Tenants as Squatters

When a squatter has previously been a tenant, the situation differs slightly. If a person stays in a property after their tenancy has ended, the owner of the property may seek a “standard” or “accelerated possession order”.

The first option may be used if the owner still wishes to receive rent from a tenant after the Section 21 eviction notice period has expired. The second option may be used when the owner does not want to receive any further rent; they want the individual evicted.

If you want to object to or fight a possession order, you must fill out a defence form or write a statement outlining your circumstances within 14 days of receiving the order. There will always be a court hearing for standard possession.

During this hearing, you can present evidence to support your objection to the order. Then, the court will decide your eviction. For example, the judge may issue an outright possession order, dismiss the order or ask for more information and a further hearing.

You must seek legal advice and support as soon as you receive a possession order.

The Squatters Perspective…

Individuals who are thinking of occupying a property in this way should always be cautious. In many parts of the UK, squatting in unoccupied commercial property is not a crime, provided the circumstances are right.

However, if you squat in residential property, you could face criminal proceedings. This could include prison time up to 6 months and/or fines of £5,000, as well as any additional penalties for any damage done to the property (under the Criminal Damage Act 1971).

To gain squatters’ rights, you must have been living in the property, acting as a responsible owner, for 10 years. If the property is not registered, then the time period increases to 12 years. All of this must be done without receiving permission from the “real” property owner.

It is essential for squatters to respond to an IPO (Interim Possession Order) within 24 hours.

Failure to do so could result in a criminal accusation, arrest by the police, and/or a sentence of up to 6 months in prison. Alternatively, they could be fined up to £5,000. It is possible to receive both penalties.

Are there squatters rights in the UK
Taking any action or making threats to remove squatters forcefully is a criminal offence.

The Property Owner’s Perspective…

It is essential to keep in mind that squatters do have rights. People tend to be very quick to pass judgment in such cases, but it is important to remember that sometimes, these situations arise from uncontrollable and heart breaking circumstances.

Taking any action or making threats to remove squatters forcefully is a criminal offence. Thus, even though the experience can be quite distressing, it is essential to adhere to the law.

Sell To us!

We have experience of dealing with squatters.  Why not sell to us and avoid the hassle?

auction hammer

Property Saviour Price Promise

  • The price we’ll offer is the price that you will receive with no hidden deductions.
  • Be careful with ‘cash buyers’ who require a valuation needed for a mortgage or bridging loan.
  • These valuations or surveys result in delays and price reductions later on.
  • We are cash buyers.  There are no surveys.
  • We always provide proof of funds with every formal offer issued.

We'll Pay £1,500 Towards Your Legal Fees

  • No long exclusivity agreement to sign because we are the buyers.
  • You are welcome to use your own solicitor. 
  • If you don’t have one, we can ask our solicitors for recommendations.
  • We share our solicitor’s details and issue a Memorandum of Sale. 

Sell With Certainty & Speed

  • Our approach is transparent and ethical, which is why sellers trust us.
  • 100% Discretion guaranteed. 
  • If you have another buyer, you can put us in a contracts race to see who completes first.
  • Complete in 10 days or at a timescale that works for you.  You are in control.

Sell with certainty & speed

Share This Article:

Related Articles

Skip to content