It is now a criminal offence to squat in a residential building and offenders face fines of up to £5,000 or six months imprisonment. Squatting has always been one of the biggest worries for owners of unoccupied properties and it is to be hoped that the new law will be a deterrent and that it will make it easier for owners to remove uninvited occupants.
Landlord insurance clients will undoubtedly welcome this new law because even the most successful let property has void periods from time to time and is at risk from people moving in unlawfully. It is even worse for people who have property that is unoccupied for longer periods, perhaps pending renovation or sale. The new offence only apples to residential buildings, not to commercial property. A residential property is defined as any structure or part of a structure that has been designed or adapted for use as a place to live before its occupation by squatters. Therefore it would include park homes and caravans.
Landlords should note that this new law does not apply to tenants who entered with the landlord’s permission so it could not be used against tenants who fail to move out at the end of a tenancy or who are behind with their rent.
If you find that squatters have moved in you should contact the police. As usual it is far better to avoid the problem if you can so anyone owning an unoccupied building should take sensible precautions to deter squatters. Making sure the windows and doors are secured with high quality locks is essential. Regular inspections should take place so that any issues can be dealt with as quickly as possible. If you live some distance away and find it difficult to visit frequently it is a good idea to arrange for someone local to keep an eye on it for you