Since 2012, squatting in a residential property in the UK has been a criminal offence. The penalty is a fine, prison or both. So squatters and property owners need to know their rights.
Here we summarise the legal position in the UK in relation to squatting.
According to Mail Online, a man in South London has become the owner of a flat worth £120,000, that he has squatted in for 13 years after the local council failed to take possession. So there are benefits to squatting if the property owner doesn’t try and regain ownership.
What is squatting?
Squatting is when somebody deliberately enters property without permission and lives or intends to live there. Squatting in non-residential property is not a crime, but it is an offence to cause damage to enter.
If you have squatted in residential property for a continuous period of at least 10 years and acted as the owner, then you can apply to become the registered owner of the property. There are different processes to follow depending on whether the property is registered with HM Land Registry. The law relating to squatting in Ireland is very similar to the UK, so landlords may use companies offering property management in Dublin such as http://clients1st.ie/ to avoid issues with tenants. However, if you are a tenant who falls behind with rent but remains in the property, this is not squatting.
How to stop squatters
If you are the owner of a property and squatters apply for legal ownership then you need to take advice from HM Land Registry, depending whether the property is registered or not. If it has been less than 28 days since you found out about the squatters, you can apply for an Interim Possession Order which involves giving them a notice to leave within 24 hours and not to return within one year. If it has been more than 28 days then you will need to make a claim for possession.
If you are considering squatting then you should contact your local council or seek advice from a homeless charity. If you are a property owner and you think someone is squatting, whether in property you own or not, or if you see anyone breaking into property, then you must call the police.