What can you do to avoid squatters taking over your property?

publication date: Feb 9, 2011
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

What can you do to avoid squatters taking over your property? 

One of the more problematic effects of the recession is that more people appear to be squatting than before. By its nature, squatting isn’t something that is measured, but estimates are that 20-30,000 people squat and most squatting takes place in London.

In the past, this has mainly been in commercial or residential properties that are empty. Now though we are starting to hear of bizarre cases where a home owner goes on holiday or in one case, a man took his dog for a walk, only to find that when they came back home, someone had moved in!

One of the surprising issues when it comes to someone occupying an empty or abandoned property they don’t own or rent, is that even if they enter the property without the owner’s permission, as long as they haven’t broken a lock or smashed a window to gain entry, they aren’t actually breaking the law! The reason this ’loop hole’ exists and where the phrase ‘squatters rights’ comes from was due to a change in the law back in 1977, which introduced Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 stopping landlords from using violence to evict tenants. Squatters have somewhat ‘hijacked’ this clause and used it to remain in their property.

Where squatters start to break the law, is when they visibly break in to the property, steal any of your goods or refuse to leave when asked. At this stage, the police can’t just ‘break’ into your home until you have proved to them that you are the rightful homeowner or tenant. At this stage and with this evidence the police should be able to act on your behalf and ensure the perpetrators are evicted.

Ideally, to avoid this truly horrible situation you need to ensure that if you leave your home empty for a week or more, you take the same precautions as you would to avoid your home being burgled.

Top three ways to avoid squatters taking over your home!

To make sure that you can always prove you own the home/are renting it, keep the evidence somewhere safe such as a copy of the mortgage bill or utility bills at a family member/friends or solicitors.

If you are likely to be away for two or more weeks, you will need to check your home insurance as it may require you to alert your home insurance company and secure extra cover. Insurance for your property if it’s left for more than 30 days will require special clauses such as damage from broken or leaking pipes, malicious as well as accidental damage from someone entering the property and, ideally, ensure it pays for somewhere else for you to live if for any reason someone occupies your home.

For more information visit: Communities, the Direct Gov Site or if you are landlord, visit Landlord Zone

Also read our other articles:-

Dealing with Squatters and Adverse Possession


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