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Essential Guide to Squatters Rights UK

As a UK property owner, you may have heard of the term "squatters' rights."

It is a term that can strike fear in the hearts of many landlords and homeowners. But what exactly are squatters' rights? Are they legal? What rights do property owners have when it comes to dealing with squatters? In this blog, we will demystify the concept of squatters' rights in the UK and provide a comprehensive guide for property owners. 


vacant property with a eviction notice


Is squatting illegal in the UK?

In the UK, squatting (occupying a property without the owner's permission) varies in legality depending on the type of property. 

On the 1st September 2012, Section 144 of the Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (S144 LASPO), came into force in England and Wales, making it a crime to squat in residential property with the intention of living there.

This means If someone squats in a house or apartment you own, the law is on your side and you can take quick action.

SI44 does Not make it a crime to:

  • Squat in a building which wasn’t previously designed for living in

  • Occupy a building for other purposes than living (for example as a protest, social centre etc)

  • Stay in a building with permission, or after permission from the owner has come to an end

14th Edition, Squatters Handbook

Squatting in non-residential buildings, like abandoned warehouses and vacant commercial buildings isn't a criminal act but a civil matter. This means you'd need to go through the court to remove squatters, which can take longer.

In Scotland, laws differ, making it easier for property owners to deal with unauthorised occupants due to stricter trespass laws.

If you find squatters on your property, getting legal advice right away is the best step. This ensures you handle the situation correctly and according to the latest laws.

What’s the difference between a squatter and a trespasser?

A squatter intends to live in a property without permission for an extended period, while a trespasser enters without intending to stay. Squatting can lead to legal ownership, but removal is harder due to legal protections. Trespassers have fewer legal protections and are easier to remove from the property.

Rights and Protections for Property Owners UK

It’s crucial for a property owner in the UK to understand their rights and protections when dealing with long-term squatters. Squatting can occur in both residential buildings and non-residential structures, and several legal procedures should be followed while evicting the perpetrators from your premises.

It's always better to seek legal advice before initiating any action as it involves complex laws around squatters' rights. Follow-up on acquiring possession of your property by obtaining an interim or permanent possession order through courts or HM Land Registry.

Property owners should take preventative measures such as securing their vacant properties and monitoring them regularly to prevent squatting.

In case of trespassing by squatters on residential or non-residential properties, property owners have the right to take legal action against them. 

Evicting Squatters: Legal Procedures and Challenges

Legal proceedings must be followed when evicting squatters from non-residential properties. Initially, the property owner should obtain an interim possession order (IPO) from the local county court to confirm their claim over the property. If an IPO has been granted by the court, the claimant (property owner) has 48 hours to serve the notice (which should include copies of all original paperwork (application, claim etc). 

If this is done correctly, the squatters will have 24 hours to vacate the property.  It is then a criminal offence for the squatters to be in the building as a trespasser until the full possession hearing, normally held a few weeks later. 

This is where many get this wrong, either through lacking the original paperwork, or failing to complete the section of the order confirming when it was served.  The IPO isn't enforceable if not correctly executed, resulting in the claim for possession continuing as an ordinary claim. 

Seeking legal advice before engaging in such activities is highly recommended.

Debating Squatters' Rights: Controversies and Perspectives

Squatters in the UK have long been a contentious issue. While some argue that they should have the right to occupy abandoned or underused properties, others believe that squatting is a criminal offence that can cause damage to property and threaten security.

Property owners have the legal right to evict squatters using a possession order, which can be obtained through the local county court. However, this process can take up to 28 days, during which time squatters may cause damage to the property. Seeking legal advice is essential for those dealing with squatters.

How to keep squatters out of your property

Dealing with squatters is often costly and time consuming.  They are often well versed in the law and experienced in occupying void properties, therefore the best strategy is to prevent them gaining entry in the first place! 

The harder you make it for squatters to gain entry, the greater the possibility that they will focus on softer targets elsewhere.

To keep your property safe from squatters, it's important to take preventative measures such as securing your property with locks and cameras. Regularly inspecting your premises can also help catch any signs of squatting before it becomes a problem. 

At Propertysec we offer a comprehensive range of services to help property owners in the UK to prevent squatting and unauthorised access to vacant properties. We specialise in empty property security, leveraging the latest technology and physical security measures to ensure your property remains protected. Our services include:

From advanced surveillance technologies, such as mobile CCTV towers and video verification systems, to monitor properties remotely.  These systems are designed to detect and deter intruders.

To physically secure properties we provide steel security screens and doors, which serve as a visible deterrent to squatters and vandals. These heavy-duty barriers are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and break-in attempts, ensuring the property is safeguarded against unauthorised entry.

Tailored Security Strategies:

Understanding that each property is unique, we work closely with clients to develop customised security solutions. This may involve a combination of fencing, surveillance and alarm systems, depending on the specific needs and vulnerabilities of the property.

By integrating technology with traditional security controls, Propertysec ensures comprehensive protection for vacant properties, helping to deter squatters, travellers, and thieves.

Our experience and flexible approach allows for rapid response and deployment throughout the UK, offering property owners peace of mind and minimising the risk of property damage and legal complications associated with squatting.

In Summary

While the laws in the UK provide some level of protection against squatting, especially in residential properties, property owners must remain vigilant and proactive. Understanding the legal distinctions between squatters and trespassers, along with the rights and remedies available to property owners, is essential in dealing with unauthorised occupancy. Given the complexities and potential legal challenges involved in evicting squatters, seeking professional legal advice is a critical first step.


To effectively manage the risk of squatting, property owners are encouraged to take preventative measures such as securing and regularly inspecting their properties.

In situations where squatters have already taken possession, it’s important to act swiftly and within the legal framework to minimise potential damage and reclaim your property.


If you're facing challenges with squatters or are concerned about the security of your vacant property, our team at Propertysec is here to help.

We offer a range of bespoke security solutions tailored to your specific needs, from advanced surveillance technologies to robust physical security measures.

Our aim is to provide you with peace of mind, knowing your property is protected against unauthorised access and squatting.


Don’t let squatting become a problem for you. Contact Propertysec today to learn more about how we can help secure your property and prevent unauthorised occupancy.

Take the first step towards safeguarding your investment and ensuring your property remains exactly as it should be - yours. 


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