Think Piece: Squatters' rights - and wrongs

Posted on April 20, 2016.

Squatting is when someone deliberately enters property without permission and lives there, or intends to live there. This is sometimes known as 'adverse possession'. Under Section 114 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, squatting in residential property became a criminal offence on September 1, 2012. This can lead to 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both. Squatting in non-residential properties may be a civil or a criminal matter, depending upon the circumstances and repossession by the owners, occupiers or intended occupiers which may require legal process or police action. Key tips & facts: It is advised that you don't try to remove squatters yourself by using force or the threat of force - You're committing a crime if you do. A long-term squatter can become the registered owner of property or land they've occupied without the owner's permission by occupying the property continuously for 10 years (12 years if it's not registered with Land Registry). Squatters have a right to be connected to utilities such as gas, electricity and water, but using them without contacting the supplier first is illegal. The Government estimates there are 20,000 squatters in the UK, but squatting groups say the real total is much higher. If you have any questions regarding squatting, please don't hesitate to contact our very experienced team who will be happy to answer and help you prevent this happening to your void properties today.

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