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How Do I Enforce a Possession Order Against Squatters in England and Wales?

Squatting, or the unauthorized occupation of a property, is an issue that property owners in England and Wales may face. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to enforce a possession order against squatters.

What is a Squatter?

“A squatter is someone who occupies a property without the legal right to do so.” (“squatter-rights-understanding-squatting-and-how-to-navigate-it”) Squatting typically occurs in residential or commercial properties that are empty or abandoned.  As a result of this occupation, squatters do not have the owner’s permission to be there and often live in the property without paying rent. 

Over the last 20+ years of Shergroup becoming a leading High Court enforcement group, our team have handled these types of instructions in a variety of situations – some passive, some more intense.  Whatever the situation, from residential homes to commercial premises, the Shergroup approach is to carry out the enforcement of the court’s order in a discreet and controlled manner creating a safe eviction environment for all concerned parties.

Legal Perspective on Squatting

In England and Wales, squatting in residential buildings became a criminal offence under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Squatters can face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to £5,000, or both. This law applies specifically to residential properties, making it illegal to enter and live in a property without permission.

For commercial properties, while squatting is not a criminal offence, property owners can still take legal action to remove squatters through the civil courts.

Checklist on How to Take Back Possession of a Property

1. Initial Steps |

  • Confirm Squatting | Verify that the individuals occupying your property are indeed squatters and not tenants with some form of rental agreement.
  • Police Involvement | For residential properties, contact the police as squatting is a criminal offence. The police can remove and arrest squatters under Section 144.

2. Seek Legal Advice |

  • Legal Guidance | Consult a legal professional to understand your rights and the appropriate legal steps. This is crucial for both residential and commercial properties.  Our sister company, Shergroup Legal, can help you with advice on how to handle a situation where squatters are in your property. 

3. Applying for a Possession Order |

  • County Court | File a claim for possession in the county court. Provide evidence that you are the rightful owner and that the squatters do not have permission to be there.
    • Hearing | Attend the court hearing. If the court is satisfied with the evidence, it will grant a possession order.

4. Enforcing the Possession Order |

  • High Court Enforcement | For swift action, transfer the possession order to the High Court. This enables High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) to act quickly.  At the hearing of the possession claim ask the District Judge to direct that the Certificate of Judgment on Form N293A is issued immediately by the court staff so this reduces the time waiting for this document to be issued.  Also ask the District Judge to arrange for the Writ of Possession to be issued as soon as possible after the hearing if possible. 
    • Writ of Possession |  Then with the N293A in hand, apply to the High Court in London or a District Registry depending on the location of the squatters, for a Writ of Possession. Once granted, HCEOs can remove squatters from the property. 
    • Shergroup Enforcement and Shergroup Legal is on hand to assist clients through the transfer process of any possession order involving squatters.  Please contact us on any of the channels outlined at the end of this blog.

5. Eviction Process |

  • Notice to Squatters | HCEOs will serve notice to the squatters, informing them of the possession order and the requirement to vacate the property.
  • Physical Eviction | If squatters do not leave voluntarily, HCEOs will carry out the eviction, ensuring the property is vacated.  We will check areas such as roofs, basements, and gardens to ensure no trespasser is left on the site. 

6. Post-Eviction Steps |

  • Secure the Property | In our experience, this is very important.  The owner should take steps to change locks and secure the property to prevent re-entry.  If the property is empty awaiting sale or refurbishment then steps should be taken to add screening to doors and windows to prevent access until the property is sold, or works are completed.
    • Clean-Up | Address any damage or clean-up required to restore the property to a habitable condition.

Summing Up

Enforcing a possession order against squatters in England and Wales requires a clear understanding of the legal framework and a methodical approach. While squatting in residential properties is a criminal offence, the process for commercial properties involves civil action. By following the outlined steps and seeking professional legal advice, property owners can effectively reclaim their properties from unauthorized occupants.

If you need assistance with enforcing a possession order, Shergroup Enforcement offers expert services to navigate this complex process. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help secure your property.

Contact Information |

By Phone | 020 3588 4240
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For more information on how Shergroup can assist with the enforcement of possession orders, call us on 0203 588 4240 or send an email to [email protected] and one of our team will contact you to set up a conversation. 

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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