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From our heritage as Sheriffs we have developed our property services for the benefit of our community so they have a one-stop shop of protection.

The problem of squatting is not new to UK landlords. From the time of World War II, there have been historical references to squatting. Many landlords today have to deal with this issue on a regular basis and seek strategies to maintain their properties squatter-free.

What is Squatting?

if someone enters your property without permission and starts living there, this is called squatting. The legal term for ‘squatting’ is ‘adverse possession.

Squatting in residential buildings (like a house or flats) is illegal. It can lead to 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both.

As a landlord squatting is a real problem and you have to deal with it intelligently. Having squatters move in and then dealing with them legally is a time-consuming, unpleasant, and potentially expensive process, but it is frequently the only option to reclaim your property. However, it is critical to ensure that everything is completed correctly. So, how can you lawfully evict squatters in the UK?

Here’s all the information that you as a landlord need to know to legally protect your property without getting into accidental trouble and evicting a squatter.

What is a Squatter?

A squatter is a person who lives in a place where they do not have permission to be. Squatters can develop from a variety of circumstances, including:

  • Someone who breaks into or enters a vacant property and begins living there
  • A tenant who stops paying rent and keeps living on the property
  • The roommate or subletter of a property that begins to live in a property past their rental period
  • Anyone who believes they have a right to live on a property that is not currently titled to them


What damage is caused by squatters? 

When a landlord initially notices that a former tenant is overstaying their lease or that their property is being occupied by unwanted guests, it can be confusing and even tempting to let them stay for a few weeks in the hopes that they will depart on their own.


As tempting as it may be, you should never let a squatter stay on your land unopposed. Inadvertently, you may be aiding the squatter’s acquisition of property rights. Squatters who have inhabited land or property for a set period of time may file a claim to be the legal owner.


If these rights are granted, evicting squatters would be significantly more difficult, thus it’s critical to understand how to evict squatters quickly and properly.


Squatters do more than just take up residence on your land. These uninvited visits might cause a slew of other problems for your company, including:


  • An eviction process can take months or even years and is very expensive.
  • You will lose out on rent.
  • The property can (and likely will) be damaged.
  • Valuables held at the property can be stolen.
  • Utilities & other bills can pile up and put additional debt on the property.
  • The longer you go without contacting them about leaving, the stronger their case is to stay.
  • As you can see, allowing squatters to remain on your property is not an option, and you should act swiftly.


What are squatters’ rights in the UK?

Squatter’s rights to property can make the situation even more complicated. Under some situations, a long-term squatter can become the registered owner of property or land they’ve occupied without the owner’s permission. The squatter must demonstrate:


  • They or other squatters have occupied the property for at least 10 years continuously or 12 years if it is not registered with HM Land Registry
  • They or predecessors have acted as the owner of the property for that whole period
  • They or predecessors did not have the owner’s permission to be on the property – in other words, they weren’t previous tenants


Most landlords, on the other hand, would move to resolve the matter before this period had passed or the property had been destroyed. Then it’s a matter of making sure the squatters are lawfully evicted.


There are two ways to remove squatters from your property using an interim possession order (IPO) or making a claim for possession. Remember in any case do not try to remove the squatters yourself using force or the threat of force, you’d be committing a crime if you do so.

These are the steps you’ll need to follow to get rid of squatters legally in the UK:


Call the police immediately

Call the police if you see someone on your property. They can tell whether the individual is a trespasser or a squatter. If they are trespassers, the police will treat it as a criminal matter and will detain them. If they’re a squatter, the police are unlikely to intervene right away, but at the very least, you’ll be able to show that you’ve informed the authorities.

Serve an eviction notice

An eviction notice should be served on the squatter. Make careful to adhere to any local requirements regarding the information required in the eviction notice. Many squatters will leave if they are threatened with legal action; if they do, you are free to depart. If this is not the case, proceed to step 3.

Issue an Interim Possession Order (IPO)

If you’ve discovered your property has been squatted within the last 28 days, you can apply for an Interim Possession Order. An IPO can be filed and sent to the county court in your region. Within 48 hours, the courts will send you a confirmation and paperwork, which you must then give to the squatters. If a squatter is served with an IPO and fails to vacate within 24 hours or stay away from the property for the next 12 months, they may be sentenced to prison.

Claiming possession

To repossess your property, you need to claim possession. This can be done either on the IPO form or separately online. If you wish to recover damages caused by the squatters, or if you’re evicting a previous renter or sub-letter, you can’t use the IPO. If you found the squatting more than 28 days ago, you may be able to file a possession claim.

How long does it take to get squatters evicted?

Depending on the circumstances, the eviction process for squatters can take a long time. If you own a commercial property and they’ve been there for less than 28 days, the eviction might be completed in a day or two.

However, if the case must be taken to court, it could take much longer, depending on the court’s timeliness – backlogs are a major concern in the post-pandemic period.


Squatters are always a cause of concern for landlords in the UK. While there are simple ways to evict squatters, measures are taken to prevent their access, which is the best way to get hold of this problem.

Contact Shergroup now if you need help removing squatters from your property in the UK. We have built a reputation as one of the most ethical and successful enforcement solutions providers with a speciality in property eviction and trespasser removal in the UK. We can analyse and securely remove unauthorised trespassers from your land or property in as little as 24 hours thanks to our enforcement agents and strong legal knowledge. Contact our friendly business solutions advisors for more information.

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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