Any time that a property is empty it can be vulnerable to being taken over by squatters. Whether it is a large commercial premises or a private residential home, there have many examples of squatters taking over and living there without the permission of the landlord or owner. There are all sorts of different kinds of squatters who may wish to take over your property. This could include everything from homeless people and travellers to political activists.
It is truly a nightmare for any landlord or property owner when squatters get into your premises and refuse to leave. Most people don’t really have any idea with how to deal with the situation and can end up wasting a lot of time before doing anything constructive. Let’s look at the best ways to prevent or remove squatters from your property.
Deter and secure
The first thing to note with squatters is that if they have had to force entry into your property, this is illegal and police can be used to arrest them for breaking and entering. The problem in dealing with squatters generally only arises if they are able to gain entry into your premises without having to use force. Of course, it should be noted that it can sometimes be difficult to prove that squatters broke in if there is no clear evidence that this occurred.
That means that your best defence against squatters is to upgrade your security. For residential properties, this can be relatively easy. Keep a sturdy lock on all of the doors and close the windows as well as any other entry points.
With commercial property, it can be more difficult. Generally, commercial premises are not designed to be as naturally secure as a home and there can be a broad range of ways that squatters could get in. This is especially true of the premises have not been maintained and are in poor condition. In this case, it can be a very good idea to put up barriers and security fences to deter potential squatters from trying to get in.
Remember that the majority of squatters are opportunistic rather than having a specific plan. If they see that your property has additional layers of security they will likely move on to somewhere else.
What to do if you find squatters on your property
If you find that you have squatters living in your property your first step must be to let them know that the property is yours and to ask them to leave. In a small number of cases, this may be enough to get them to go. If not, you can at least start a dialogue with them to let them know that you will need to have them evicted if they do not leave of their own accord.
It’s also true that if the squatters have committed any damage to your property, this is a criminal act and the police can be involved. However, simply squatting is not a criminal offence so it can be more complicated to get them to leave if they have not committed a crime.
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Forcing squatters out
Your rights regarding forcing squatters out of your property depend very much on the circumstances. If your property is occupied or is about to become occupied, and squatters will not leave the premises, they are committing a criminal act.
If the property is not occupied then you will need to gain a court order to have them removed. You should not attempt to remove them by force (or make threats to do so) as this is a criminal act on your part.
How long does the process take?
In the latter situation, gaining a court order can be a lengthy process that may take a number of days. It’s also true that the squatters could then potentially ignore this court order which would mean you would need to have a bailiff sent to the property in order to regain possession which could take a number of weeks. This has the potential to be enormously frustrating, especially if you have a need to get into the property urgently.
Are there quicker alternatives?
For a faster service, it is possible to obtain what is known as an interim possession order. This will generally be much quicker than a court order but can also cost significantly more money. However, as was already mentioned, the best approach is to make it impossible for squatters to get on to your premises in the first place.
This article was written by Dakota Murphey, BA (Hons) marketing graduate working as an independent writer for Civil Engineering Contractors Maltaward, who were consulted for some of the information provided in this article.