Individuals who occupy a property which they have entered without the property owner’s permission are squatters. We can assist Landlord’s with possession proceedings against squatters living in property, whether that property is residential or commercial in nature.
Both the civil and criminal law can be used to evict squatters by the following means:
1. Court Proceedings
Court proceedings are usually issued in the County Court. The responsibility of serving copies of the court papers on the squatters, including any witness statements, lies with the Landlord. A bailiff is usually instructed to effect service.
In theory the process is quick and efficient with a hearing taking place within 48 hours of the bailiff serving the papers. Unfortunately, due to the current pressures on the court service, a hearing is likely to be listed within 5-7 days.
The court will grant an Order for Summary Possession at the hearing if the squatters have not filed a defence. This order is enforced by the court bailiff who can take a number of weeks to attend the property.
2. Interim Possession Order (IPO)
This is intended to provide a rapid means of recourse against the squatters occupying your property. A possession claim is brought as described above and an application for an IPO. The IPO is granted where possession is the sole claim and just like above it is the Landlord’s responsibility to serve the court papers. The papers must be served within 24 hours and it is usually a process server or private bailiff that will effect service.
IPOs’ are a 2 stage process, a IPO hearing and then a final possession hearing. If the IPO is granted at the first stage, the squatters have 24 hours to leave after which their continued occupation becomes a criminal offence. The final hearing then converts the IPO into a possession order.
The IPO is enforceable by the police however, due to current pressures on police resources, it is extremely difficult to obtain their assistance. The main value in seeking an IPO is that it will encourage some squatters to leave of their own accord and it may lead to a final possession hearing being obtained more rapidly.
3. S.144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO)
On 1 September 2012, squatting in residential property became a criminal offence. Squatters can now be fined up to £5,000 or imprisoned for up to 6 months.
LASPO is enforced by the police however, due to current pressures on police resources, it is extremely difficult to obtain their assistance.
4. A residential occupier of a property, whether homeowner or tenant, who has been displaced by a squatter moving in while they were away (in hospital for example) can look to recover possession without going to Court. We can advise on the proper process for this.
We can advise on the best process to recover possession from squatters and, by working with partner organisations, provide a complete service to serve notices, obtain court orders, and have them enforced.
Unfortunately, due to pressures on the court and police services the process of removing squatters is much slower than one would hope. Bailiffs take weeks to confirm appointments as opposed to days and many police officers will not assist because squatters are not considered a priority. However, final possession orders can also be enforced by privatised High Court Enforcement Officers who, while more expensive, are also much faster to act.
If the occupier has previously held a tenancy agreement and has not left at the end of it or is not paying the rent, then they are not a squatter. In that case you will need our Residential Possession Service.