Squatting was a pressing issue for several periods throughout British history, most notably during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, for the Diggers in the 17th Century and the housing crisis in the late 1960s. But it was only in 2012 that squatting in residential and commercial property became a criminal or civil offence. With the outlawing of squatting, property owners can take legal action against trespassers and illegal occupants, with the help of a bailiff office.
Urban squatting is a complex issue, spanning cultural and economic factors that resulted in the high proportion of empty homes and a growing homeless population. While it was born out of deprivation in the past, some people today squat for political or entrepreneurial reasons, either as a sign of protest or to set up a public space for serving the community. Many squatters are aware of their rights and some would want to claim ownership, especially if the property has been neglected for years and the landlord hasn’t shown any interest in rehabilitating it.
If you intend to retrieve your property from squatters, here’s what you can do:
The laws governing squatting are quite complex. Without professional assistance, it’s difficult to evict unauthorised occupants, especially if they have been squatting for a long time. Before taking any form of action, contact the local council and the authorities for advice on how to deal with the problem. Keep in mind that even as the owner of the property, you may not be authorised to force your way into the property if people are inside or living in it.
Issuing a formal notice of eviction is the right action to take. This will give squatters time to pack up their belongings and look for a new place to live. If the squatters have been in your property for years, preparation for relocation can take weeks or months. It’s a sound move to cooperate with the squatters and the local council to facilitate a lawful and peaceable eviction.
If the occupants refuse to vacate the property after a court order is served, a motion to prosecute is in order; at which point, you can hire bailiffs to physically remove the squatters and their belongings immediately from the property. The police can also take action if the squatters commit any criminal damage or theft, or other punishable offences such as fly-tipping.
Preventative measures must be in place if you wish to keep squatters away from your property. The installation of security features, especially for the windows and doors, can prevent the same issue from reoccurring. The most effective way to prevent squatting, however, is to occupy the property or re-let it to tenants. If you need to do major repairs or redecorate the property before you lease it again, register the property to the council so the authorities can keep it empty and undamaged.
When removing trespassers and unauthorised occupants from your property, you’ll come across a number of challenges. You need squatter eviction professionals to resolve the issue in a timely and amicable manner. Contact MS Webb & Co today to find out how we can help you.