Who are Squatters?
Squatters are individuals that settle at a property without the consent of the landlord or owner. A Squatter is not a tenant who has stayed on once their tenancy has come to an end. Read on to find out more about the proper legal process of evicting squatters.
Difference between a Squatter and a Trespasser
A Squatter may not be aware that the property is owned by someone, they may think it is abandoned and may try to settle there. A trespasser on the other hand is aware that the property belongs to someone but enters it without their permission.
What attracts Squatters?
Empty homes without tenants for long periods of time are a prime target for squatters. Woodstock Legal Services always advise Managing Agents to ensure new tenants move in immediately when the previous tenancy has finished. Closing the gap between the new tenants arrival and the previous ones departure will reduce the risk of squatters.
It’s also advised that agents ensure when tenants leave, they take their belongings with them or dispose of them appropriately.
Belongings left around properties can give the illusion that the property is abandoned. This may also attract Squatters, who may think nobody is monitoring the property and hence they could remain there longer.
How to remove Squatters from a Property
Squatters at a residential property can be evicted and can also be arrested by the police. If arrested, they can be punished by way of a fine up to £5,000 or prison up to six months.
If the police are unwilling to get involved, the Squatter has refused to leave, the landlord/owner does not wish to get police involved, or if the premises is commercial, then a Squatter can be evicted with an order from the court.
Initially one would instruct a firm of solicitors to write to the Squatter and ask them to leave immediately. If they do not comply with this request, the solicitors would draft proceedings and file these at court requesting a court order.
The court would then list the matter for an urgent hearing whereby the advocate attending on the landlord’s behalf would request that possession is granted forthwith, with permission to go to the high court to get a writ of possession should the Squatter fail to vacate as per the court order.
Once the court order has been obtained, the solicitor would usually instruct high court enforcement officers to obtain the writ urgently. This is so that they can then go to the property and carry out the eviction.
By Sharfaa Kerkache, Trainee Solicitor at Woodstock Legal Services