What is squatting?
Squatting is defined as an individual or group of people who knowingly reside (or intend to) in a residential building as a trespasser. Squatting is illegal, and is punishable by up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5000.
‘Squatting’ in a non-residential (so commercial premises, for example) building is not a crime. However, squatters or ‘trespassers’ are most likely breaking other laws; entering private property and refusing to leave, for example. Although the act of squatting a non-residential property is not illegal, it’s important to know your rights if you are affected by this. Police can take action against squatters if they commit any of the following crimes:
causing damage to the property when entering or inside
stealing from the property
refusing to leave after being told to do so by a court
dumping waste illegally (also known as fly-tipping)
disobeying noise abatement notice
What to do next
If you have been affected by squatters in a non-residential property there are actions you can take to successfully regain possession. If you own the property, you can use an IPO (an interim possession order) to reclaim your premises. This action, followed by an ‘application for possession’ are the steps required to get your property back.
Once you have an IPO, squatters must leave the property within 24 hours by law. They can face up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a £5000 fine if they do not obey this. They can also not return to your property for 12 months after an IPO has been issued.
In very rare cases, squatters can essentially take ownership of a property. To do this, they would have to stay in the property without the owners permission for a minimum of 10 years.
If you believe somebody is squatting in a residential or non-residential property, report them to the police. If you believe somebody is squatting in a council property, contacting your local council is the best step.
This information was taken from www.gov.uk. If you would like more information regarding your rights and what steps to take, you can do so here.
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