14 January 2013
Squatters – what to do now
Although it has been widely reported that recent changes to the law make squatting in residential premises a criminal offence for the first time, this is not strictly true. Refusing to leave a property when requested by a ‘displaced residential occupier’ has been a criminal offence for more than 30 years, and the theft of someone else’s electricity etc. and causing damage to a property are also criminal acts.
The new laws on squatting only apply to residential buildings, not land in general, and they only apply to those who are living or intending to live in the property in which they squat, not to transient occupiers.
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.
For more information, see https://www.gov.uk/squatting-law/overview.