Squatting is when someone deliberately enters a property without permission with the intention of living there.
It’s illegal to do so in England and Wales and the penalty for squatting can be six months in prison, a £5,000 fine, or both, and the eviction process is relatively simple these days.
The law helps to protect homeowners and local authorities who discover trespassers living in residential buildings that they own or control, even if no one was living there at the time the trespassers occupied the building.
What can I do if my flat has squatters?
If you find squatters in your flat you can call the police to report a criminal offence. You can apply online using form N130 to ask the court for an interim possession order that the squatter(s) leave within 24 hours. You must do this within 28 days of becoming aware of the squatters.
You may want to ask a solicitor for advice on what to do to minimise the financial loss in such a situation.
You should also reassure the freeholder or managers of the block and the neighbours that you are aware of the situation and are taking appropriate and prompt action.
Non-payment of rent is not squatting
Do not confuse squatting with rogue tenants and non-payment of rent.
Anyone who originally entered a property with the permission of the landlord is not a squatter. So, if a tenant falls behind with rent payments, they are not squatting. Eviction for non-payment of rent is a separate process.
Suitable legal expenses and rent guarantee insurance may help in such a situation.
Squatting in non-residential properties
Simply being on another person’s non-residential property without their permission is not usually a crime. However, the police can take action if squatters commit other crimes when entering or staying in a property, such as causing damage, stealing or using utilities without permission.
A non-residential property is any building or land that is not designed to be lived in. So, although flats are classed as commercial buildings by insurers, they are still protected by the law against squatting in residential properties.
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The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.