What are squatters’ rights UK?

What are squatters’ rights UK?

While squatting is less common in the UK, between 800 - 900 million squatters are living globally according to the UN — that’s over 10% of the world’s population! Squatters are people who build makeshift shelters on someone else’s property, occupy abandoned homes, or settle into empty factories or industrial buildings. And while this can be frustrating for property and land owners, it’s important to remember that there are all kinds of reasons why a person might be squatting.

It’s fair enough to want them to move off your property, but there are betters ways to handle it than others. So if you’re wondering what to do about squatters? And, what are squatters’ rights in the UK? Stick around and we’ll walk you through it.


What is a squatter?

Squatters tend to be struggling with poverty and homelessness — but there are a couple of other reasons a person may take up squatting too. For some, it’s a political statement and a way to rebel against authority. For others, they might believe they have some right to that particular property and choose to stay in protest. But no matter the motivation, what exactly counts as a squatter?

There are the 3 general types of squatter:

  • A person living in a residential property who didn’t get the owner’s permission to enter or live there. This could be a flat, house, caravan — any property that was designed as a place to live.
  • A person living on non-residential property who didn’t get the owner’s permission to enter or live there. This might be a commercial property or the land surrounding residential or commercial buildings.
  • A person whose tenancy agreement has ended, who’s been evicted, or who has overstayed as a house guest. Essentially any situation where you were permitted to live there temporarily, but are now refusing to move out.

Quick note: Those who enter and live in a place without permission are legally recognised as squatters — but things are a little different when the squatter has previously been a tenant. To learn more about the eviction procedure in these instances, check out our article on: ‘What is an accelerated possession order’.

But no matter which kind of squatter you are, or are dealing with as a landowner, it’s important to be aware of squatter rights. More on that next…


What is a squatter’s right UK?

Let’s get one thing clear to begin with… Do squatters have rights? YES. Just like any other tenant, member of the community, or human in general — squatters have a right to be treated fairly and with compassion. Even if you’re frustrated and angry with a squatter living on your property, it’s never okay to verbally harass or physically harm that individual. If you threaten to forcibly remove a squatter, or even do so, you could be committing a crime.

But beyond fair treatment, what right do squatters have to the properties they inhabit? Well, that largely depends on what kind of squatter we’re talking about.

Let’s break it down:

Squatters living on non-residential property, such as in a commercial building or on a plot of land, technically, have a “right” to be there. They can’t be arrested for trespassing and if an owner wanted them to move, they would need to make a claim for possession or report the squatter for one of the following offences:

  • Causing damage when entering or residing on the property
  • Stealing from the property
  • Using utilities such as electricity or gas without permission
  • Discarding rubbish or food onsite
  • Ignoring a noise abatement notice

Squatters living in residential property, such as an empty home, usually have no right to remain on the property and can be quickly arrested and removed. An exception is made for long-term squatters who have occupied a property without permission for 10 years (or 12 years if the property is unregistered with HM Land Registry). In this case, they may apply for adverse possession which is sometimes known as a squatters’ right to ownership.


How to claim squatters’ rights on land UK

So let’s say you’re a long-term squatter — you’ve made the place your home and no one has had any problem with that for over 10 years (or 12 years for an unregistered property). How do you get squatters’ rights to that property? Here’s a quick guide to the legal procedure…

How to get squatters’ rights for registered property:

  • Fill in a form for adverse possession.
  • Sign a written ‘statement of truth’ (you can get a solicitor to help you with this).
  • Send your completed form and statement to the HM Land Registry Citizen Centre (HM Land Registry Citizen Centre, PO Box 74, Gloucester, GL14 9BB).

After that, HM Land Registry will inform the property owner of your application and they’ll have 65 days to object. If they do so, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. But you can apply again after 2 years if the owner hasn’t reclaimed the property or tried to kick you out. If there’s no objection? Then congratulations! You’re the proud owner of your home.

How to get squatters’ rights for unregistered property:

After that, HM Land Registry will come and inspect the property, (you may need to pay a fee for this), decide whether your application is valid, and then inform the property owner. The owner can still object to your claim, but if you disagree then HM Land Registry can arrange a tribunal to formally decide who owns the property. It’s worth noting there could be legal fees involved in this process.


A few final tips…

If you’re struggling with homelessness, it’s worth noting that your local council might be able to help you find somewhere to live. You don’t have to be living on the streets to be eligible, so if you’re squatting you can still give them a call.

For more information, visit: Citizens Advice.

Struggling to afford a rental deposit? Check out: ‘Deposit free renting’.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.