Squatting, also known as adverse possession, raises a myriad of questions about property ownership and tenant rights. Below we will cover a few key questions that landlords ask about squatter’s rights in the UK.
What are Squatter’s Rights?
Squatters’ rights in the UK, also known as adverse possession, are the legal rights that a person may acquire to a property or land that they have occupied without the owner’s permission for an extended period.
Squatting in a residential property is illegal in the UK, and squatters can be evicted at any time. However, if a squatter meets all the criteria for adverse possession, they may be able to acquire squatters’ rights after 10 years (12 years if the property is not registered).
How do Squatters Rights work?
For a squatter to obtain their adverse possession, they must prove that they have occupied the property continuously and openly for the required period, and that they have functioned as if they were the owner of the property during that time.
The owner of the property will have the opportunity to object to the claim, and they may be able to successfully defend their ownership of the property.
The Squatters rights criteria is as follows:
- The squatter must have occupied the property continuously and openly for at least 10 years (12 years if the property is not registered with HM Land Registry) without the owner’s permission to do so.
- They must have functioned as if they were the owner of the property during that time, for example by paying the bills and maintaining the property.
- If a squatter meets these criteria, they can apply to the Land Registry to become the registered owner of the property. The Land Registry will then notify the current owner of the property, who will have the opportunity to object to the claim. If the owner does not object, or if their objection is unsuccessful, the squatter will become the legal owner of the property.
How should landlords handle squatters in their property?
Landlords should manage squatters in their property in a calm and professional manner. It is important to remember that squatters may have legal rights, depending on the area in which the property is located.
Here are some steps that landlords can take to manage squatters in their property:
- Contact the authorities. Squatting is a crime in most areas, so it is important to contact the police to report the squatters. The police may be able to remove the squatters immediately, or they may be able to advise the landlord on the next steps to take.
- Serve the squatters with a notice to vacate. This is a formal document that informs the squatters that they are not allowed to occupy the property and that they must leave. The notice to vacate should be served in person or by mail.
- File an eviction proceeding in court. If the squatters do not leave the property after being served with a notice to vacate, the landlord will need to file an eviction proceeding in court. This is a legal process that allows the landlord to obtain a court order requiring the squatters to leave the property. Keeping a record of all communication between landlord and squatters is vital for this step.
- Have the squatters evicted by authorities. Once the landlord has obtained a court order, authorities can be called to evict the squatters from the property.
Unfortunately, the eviction process can be time-consuming and expensive. Landlords should seek legal advice to ensure that they are following the correct procedures and to get help with the eviction process, if necessary.
It is important for landlords to refrain from removing, harassing, or intimidating the squatters themselves, as this could lead to further legal problems.
Landlords should also be aware of the law regarding squatters’ rights in their area. In some areas, squatters may have certain rights, such as the right to a notice period before they can be evicted.
Landlords should consult with a solicitor to learn more about the law regarding squatters’ rights in their area.
How long does it take to evict a squatter UK?
The amount of time it takes to get a squatter to move off your property can vary depending on a number of factors, including:
- Whether the squatter is in a residential or commercial property.
- How long the squatter has been occupying the property.
- Whether the squatter has any legal rights to the property.
- Whether the landlord can obtain an interim possession order (IPO).
In general, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to get a squatter evicted legally.
If the squatter is in a residential property and has been there for less than 28 days, the landlord may be able to obtain an IPO. An IPO is a court order that requires the squatter to leave the property within 24 hours.
If the squatter has been in the property for more than 28 days or is in a commercial property, the landlord will need to file a claim for possession in court. This is a more complex process and can take several months to complete.
Once the landlord has obtained a court order, police authorities can be called to evict the squatters from the property.
However, it is important to note that squatters may have certain legal rights, such as the right to a notice period before they can be evicted. Landlords should consult with a solicitor to learn more about the law regarding squatters’ rights in their jurisdiction.
How to avoid squatters’ rights claims
- Inspect your property regularly for signs of squatters.
- Keep your property in good condition and make sure that it is secure.
- If you find squatters in your property, act immediately to remove them. You can do this by obtaining an interim possession order from the court.
- If you are unable to remove the squatters yourself, you should seek legal advice.
In the maze of property ownership and rights, the concept of squatters’ rights in the UK remains a complex and sensitive topic.
Another key point to note is that if you have tenants in your property who have resided there under the terms of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and have failed to vacate at the end of the fixed term, they do not become squatters. Therefore, the process to evict a tenant in these circumstances would be different.
While squatting in residential property is illegal, adverse possession laws provide a legal avenue for squatters to claim ownership under specific circumstances.
Landlords, facing the challenge of unwanted occupants, must tread carefully and diligently, following legal procedures to regain control of their property.
By staying informed and vigilant, landlords can protect their property rights and ensure their properties are kept at their high standard.
For more information, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our property management experts at Complete.