Evicting Squatters? A How to Guide from Second Property

Squatters

It’s a property owner’s worst fear: a vacant property has been taken over by squatters. Squatting is the unlawful occupation of a property without the owner’s consent, often without his knowledge, and without paying rent. It can drastically affect the owner’s ability to sell or let the property.

Professional Help

As of September 2012, it is illegal criminal offence to trespass in residential property in the UK. However, some police forces are overstretched or reluctant to get involved by arresting squatters leaving landlords to pursue their own claim in court.

Thankfully companies such as Property Reclaim, that specialise in evictions, help property owners through what can be a very difficult experience by giving instant access to all the information, documentation and forms they require to successfully manage the eviction process. Evicting squatters from a property via the courts can be a difficult and costly process so ensuring that you have access to expert help and direct access to the documentation required really benefits. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you.

Squatters Rights

Even though squatting in a property is illegal; in the UK squatters have rights and most squatters will be well aware of them. They cannot legally be evicted without the owner obtaining a court order unless the owner is a ‘Displaced Residential Occupier’ which means that the squatters have moved into their home, as opposed to a second home or rental property. There is a chance that squatters can be evicted if the owner is able to gain peaceful entry to the property. However, many squatters will limit any communication with the owner and ensure there is always someone there in order to maintain their hold on the property.

Use of Force?

It is absolutely essential that you do not try to use force, or even the threat of force, when evicting squatters. Any violent altercation can be used to strengthen the squatter’s case against you and could lead to prosecution. It is advisable to take a witness with you in any meetings with the squatters and if possible record all communications. This will ensure that any accusations are quickly disproved and do not delay the eviction process.

Timing

As the owner you will need to make a claim for possession. An expedited procedure to remove squatters quickly with an Interim Possession Order (IPO) is available where the claim is started within 28 days of becoming aware of the squatters gaining entry.

Court

After issuing and serving the claim the court will make an IPO, usually within a few days and the squatters must leave the property within 24 hours of being served the order. The squatters will be committing an offence if they do not move and could be arrested and face custodial punishment. However, the owner must also agree that he will not re-let the property, damage or sell it until a court has made a decision and issued a final Possession Order which usually takes place within 3-4 weeks of the IPO being granted. The owner must also agree that if a court finds in the squatters’ favour that they will be allowed back into the property. In the worst case scenario, the squatters could even be entitled to compensation but only where the court finds that they had a legal right to occupy the property.

Evicting squatters can be challenging when tackled alone. Instructing a professional eviction specialist to oversee the process will save you time, money and a lot of heartache.

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