London Solicitors Evicting Squatters and Trespassers

If you are a landlord or own a residential property that has been occupied by trespassers (also referred to as squatters), we can help you take action to recover possession and in some circumstances seek reparation for any damage caused to your property.

Housing and Property Law Solicitors is a specialist law firm located in central London. As property law experts, we can provide bespoke legal advice and representation to individuals and businesses on a broad range of residential and commercial property matters. We regularly handle complex trespass cases, from unauthorised squatters, to tenants who refuse to leave, to adverse possession claims for long-term squatting.

Evicting squatters and trespassers can be a delicate process involving a complex area of law. It is not unusual for squatters to be defensive, uncooperative and occasionally aggressive. We will aim to recover possession of your property as swiftly as possible. We can utilise your civil options for regaining possession, help you enforce Possession Orders by instructing bailiffs (it is never advisable to try to remove a squatter yourself) and provide advice on the criminal offences associated with squatting.

If you have any queries or need further advice about people trespassing or squatting on your land or property, please contact Mark Eaton.

We can help you take action against squatters and trespassers

Our property law solicitors can provide advice on the range of civil actions available to you, including:

  • Possession proceedings to recover possession of the property
  • Enforcing Possession Orders
  • Defending adverse possession claims
  • Injunctions to prevent someone from coming onto your land in future
  • Claims for damages

Possession proceedings

There are several options for recovering possession of a property occupied by trespassers which may be suitable depending on your individual circumstances, including:

  • Standard Part 55 Possession Orders against former tenants, sub-tenants or licensees under Section I of Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998
  • Accelerated Possession Orders for tenants who have not left at the end of their tenancy (upon being served a valid Section 21 Notice) under Section II of Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998
  • Interim Possession Orders under Section III of Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998

Standard Part 55 Possession Claims

For example, to evict tenants and sub-tenants who will not leave after they have been served valid notice to end their tenancy and unauthorised tenants. If you do not know the names of the trespassers (for example, because they are unauthorised sub-tenants), you can make the application against ‘persons unknown’.

This procedure is also suitable if you need to make a claim against the tenants for damage to the property or rent arrears.

Accelerated Possession Orders

This procedure is appropriate to evict tenants who will not leave at the end of their tenancy after being served a valid notice (if you do not also need to claim rent arrears). This process tends to be faster than standard possession proceedings and a Possession Order may be issued within 14 days of the application being approved by a judge.

Interim Possession Orders

As well as the ‘standard’ procedure for recovering possession of a property, Part 55 of the CPR provides a specific way to quickly remove trespassers and squatters.

Under Section 3 of Part 55, so long as the property owner takes action within 28 days of knowing about the squatters, and so long as the premises are residential, he or she can obtain an Interim Possession Order. The squatters must leave within 24 hours of being served with the Order or they can be arrested.

There is no reason why the owners should not be able to obtain such an order from the court within 10 days, though the court may have to be persuaded to list the matter quickly. There will be two hearings rather than one. Usually, a final Possession Order is given a week or so after the Interim Possession Order that can be enforced via an eviction notice in the normal way.

Enforcing Possession Orders / Evictions

If the trespassers refuse to leave the property after you have obtained a Possession Order, our property lawyers can help you obtain:

  • A Warrant for Possession to instruct bailiffs to evict the trespassers
  • A Writ of Possession to transfer the matter to the High Court and instruct High Court Enforcement Officers to evict the trespassers (this process may result in a faster eviction)

Defending adverse possession claims

A person can claim ownership of a piece of someone else’s land if they have occupied it for at least 10 years (or 12 years in some circumstances) – this is called an adverse possession claim. Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, the trespasser can apply to the Land Registry to become the registered owner of the land. If the owner objects to the registration within 65 days, the adverse possession claim will likely fail. If they do not respond to the claim, the Land Registry will register the trespasser as the new legal owner. It is therefore critical that you consult a property lawyer as soon as you receive notice of the claim.

There are some circumstances in which a trespasser may make a successful adverse possession claim even if the owner objects to their registration. We have experience handling these sorts of claims and can provide rigorous defence strategy advice to landowners.

For more information about adverse possession, visit our Boundary Disputes Solicitors page.

Is squatting a criminal offence?

There are a number of criminal offences that can apply to squatters and trespassers:

Displaced Residential Occupiers and Protected Intended Occupiers

Until 2012, the main law on trespassing was the Criminal Law Act 1977 which states that ‘Displaced Residential Occupiers’ (a property owner whose home has been occupied by squatters) have a right to re-enter their property without obtaining a court order, so long as the squatters do not oppose it. However, if the squatter who refuses to leave, it is a criminal offence and they can be arrested. Such a situation might arise if the property owner goes on holiday and returns to find their home occupied by squatters.

Similarly, if a person has bought a flat or a house and has not lived there but intends to live there, then he or she is classified as a Protected Intending Occupier. Under s.12A of the Act, the person can obtain the same rights as a Displaced Residential Occupier. The person will need to make a written statement in front of a Commissioner of Oaths (e.g. any solicitor). Any squatter/trespasser who refuses to vacate a property when asked to do so by a Protected Intending Occupier can be arrested.

Criminal offence of squatting in a residential building

In 2012, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act made it a criminal offence for a person to enter and occupy a residential building as a trespasser (either on purpose or where they ought to have known that they were trespassing). A trespasser is generally defined as someone who enters land that does not belong to them, whether it is a mistake or not.

This law does not apply to tenants (current or previous) who have not paid their rent or have stayed in the property after the end of their tenancy.

Where a person is found to be trespassing under this law, the police may enter the property and arrest them. If found guilty of the offence, the trespasser can receive up to 6 months’ imprisonment, a £5,000 fine or both.

Other criminal offences

Trespassers and squatters may also commit other crimes in the process of trespassing, such as:

  • Criminal damage
  • Theft
  • Failing to comply with a court order (contempt of court)
  • Fly-tipping
  • Breaching noise abatement notices

Get in touch with our property law solicitors in London

If you have any queries or need further advice about people trespassing or squatting on your land or property, please contact Mark Eaton.