When the Term Squatting Does Not Apply
Should your tenant decide not to leave when he or she should – after the expiration of a section 21 notice for example – they are not a squatter. For tenants like this you must use normal court processes to evict them and importantly you must not resort to your own self-help measures.
For evictions of assured shorthold tenants following non-payment of rent or because they have not left at the end of the tenancy and after the appropriate correct notices have been served, you will in all likelihood be able to follow the court procedures yourself without having to pay for the services of a solicitor.
The Real Squatters
Real squatters are those who have no right to be in your property, either because your tenant has let them in (and they are not on the tenancy agreement and there has been no agreement by you to allow your tenants to sub-let), or they could be a third party who has let themselves in, while the property was left empty, unoccupied and unsecured.
In effect they are trespassers.
If a trespasser is in occupation you can rely on self-help measures to get the property back. What you’ll have to do is somehow get into the property and change the locks and secure it. But it’s at this point we have a problem. Although you can do this yourself what you cannot do is use forceful entry if one of the squatters is actually in the property at the time and opposes you. Since if this happens the squatters will probably quote the relevant law – section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 – and no doubt call the police to stop you from trying to evict them.
To counter this you will need to use the special court processes for trespassers. Usually the paper can be issued in less than four weeks but if you go down this route (or indeed any route to get rid of squatters) you are strongly advised to use the services of a solicitor to help you.
Calling in the Bailiffs
The good thing here will be that you will usually only have to wait about a month and the occupiers will nearly always go just before the bailiffs arrive, taking their stuff (or at least the stuff they want to take) with them.
If the property was your former home, or was somewhere that you were about to move into then this should mean you have a right to get back in more quickly. If this is the case though you will need to prove it was your former home or that you have recently bought it and intended to move into it as your home.
What if your Tenant Lets Squatters in?
If your tenant let squatters in (and assuming you did not allow your tenant to sublet to them), it gets a bit more complicated. What happens here depends upon whether your tenant told you he was going or not.
If they didn’t say they were leaving – then even if you suspect that he has definitely left and even though someone else is in the property you would still in effect have to assume that your tenant was in possession, which means pursuing the normal track court possession routes.
Windows should not be left open because with no evidence of forced entry, squatters cannot be treated as burglars.
This article is a rough guide only and not intended to offer, replace or substitute proper legal advice in any way – and we are more than welcome to offer some recommended solicitors that we have had success working with.