Squatting in residential property is against the law, but the removal of squatters must follow strict legal procedures. Hayley Wharton explains the main issues.

A squatter has no right to occupy a property – and is effectively a trespasser.

Asking the police to remove squatters is an instinctive first reaction, but officers are reluctant to get involved at this stage unless an obvious offence has been committed, such as criminal damage or theft.

Squatters do have rights

Frustrated owners are sometimes tempted to try to remove the squatters on their own, but you should be aware that the use of threats or force will be regarded as a crime. Instead, you should seek legal advice and follow formal procedures set out in law.

It’s worth keeping in mind that a squatter who has occupied land or property for a specified period of time could become the registered owner (different periods of time relate to registered and unregistered land).

Two ways to get rid of squatters legally

There are two way to legally remove squatters:

  • Interim Possession Order (IPO)
  • Claim for possession

How to use an Interim Possession Order

If you have been aware that the squatters have occupied your property for less than 28 days, you should use an IPO.

This involves filling out an IPO application form and sending it to your local county court. Once all the relevant documents have been filed, the court will issue the claim form and the application for the IPO and it will set a date for the hearing of the application. A landlord must serve the occupiers with all the relevant documents within 24 hours of the issue of the application. On making an IPO, the IPO must be served to the squatters within 48 hours.

When the IPO has been served, the squatters are required by law to vacate the property within 24 hours.

If the squatters have damaged your property you can make a Claim for Possession in order to recover the damages.

Making a Claim for Possession

In situations where you have known about the squatters for more than 28 days, you should make a claim for possession.

It’s imperative to take legal advice when making a Claim for Possession because the process must be followed to the letter. If it isn’t, the court won’t grant your claim.

The procedure is the same as that used where tenants are in rental arrears and the landlord wants to repossess the property.

You will need to make a claim by following the procedure under Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.

If the squatters refuse to go, you will have to apply for a warrant of possession that would involving the court sending a bailiff to carry out eviction action.

Removing squatters is a complex process, therefore it is essential to seek specialist legal advice.

For further advice on removing a squatter from your property, or any other residential dispute resolution matter, call Hayley Wharton on 0161 761 4611 or email her at hayley.wharton@whnsolicitors.co.uk