The rights of property owners are being emphasised by the UK government in a bid to outlaw squatters.
It is estimated that there are around 20,000 squatters in the country and recent high profile cases have shown that landlords as well as ordinary owners who go on a long holiday or extended trip are suffering.
Examples of homeowners who have fallen victim to squatters taking over their homes include Connan Gupta, whose home in Camberwell, South London, was taken over by squatters after he’d moved out while repairs were being made. Another one is 72-year-old George Pope, whose home in Barking was taken over by squatters while he stayed with friends.
Now Housing Minister Grant Shapps has pledged to shut the door to squatters by making homeowners as aware of their rights as those looking to take over their properties. He has launched an online guide for homeowners setting out their rights and what to do if their property is invaded.
The guidance, produced jointly with the Ministry of Justice, makes clear that it is an offence for a squatter to fail to leave a residential property when required to do so by or on behalf of either a displaced residential occupier or certain other occupiers whose interest in the premises is protected under the legislation.
Anyone looking to remove squatters from their home can also apply for an Interim Possession Order. This requires squatters to leave the property within 24 hours of the order being served, or they are committing a criminal offence and can be arrested and face up to six months’ imprisonment.
It is also then an offence for the squatter to return to the property within 12 months of the Interim Possession Order being served.
‘Recent high profile cases have served to illustrate the distress and misery that squatters can cause. I want to shut the door to squatters once and for all, and for homeowners to know their rights just as well as those looking to take over their properties,’ said Shapps.
‘I’m publishing advice making clear how the law is on their side and that there are steps they can take to take back their home quickly and effectively,’ he added.