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Squatters

A squatter is someone who enters a property without permission when the property is empty and refuses to leave when requested.

The legal position

When squatters occupy a property there are legal steps that must be followed to take the property back. The law gives basic legal protection from eviction. Anyone forcing their way into a property to get rid of squatters without following these steps would be acting illegally and could be taken to court and fined.

If you think there are squatters in a property, report it below or report it to your tenancy management to investigate and take further action. The council will always take action to regain possession of a property from squatters.

There are two ways to regain possession of properties that have squatters. The methods vary depending on whether the property is let /has a prospective tenant or whether the property is empty and cannot be immediately re let.

Report squatters

An existing tenant or a prospective tenant

The law allows the property to be repossessed quickly from squatters without the need to get an order from the court.

The tenancy management will visit the property within 24 hours of the reported squatting and complete a squatter report. The squatters will be told:

  • the property has been allocated to a prospective tenant
  • they should vacate the property within 24 hours or the prospective tenant has authorised Hillingdon Council to regain possession of their behalf
  • they should contact Housing Advice for help with their housing options
  • a letter will be left at the property if the squatters are not in
  • the housing office checks if the squatters have vacated. If not they will ask the prospective tenant to complete a witness statement confirming they are to be the tenant of the property and authorising the council to act on their behalf. The tenancy management contacts the police to arrange a date and time to attend the property with the council to evict the squatters. This will normally be within one day. The squatters are then informed of the date and time the repossession will take place with the police in attendance.
  • the council staff will attend with the police to evict the squatters, secure the property and take steps to get the prospective tenant into their new home as soon as possible. If appropriate this may include additional security and carrying out some works to the property after the tenant has moved in.

In rare cases a tenant may find that squatters have broken into their home. In this situation the council can repossess the property in the same way as above.

If the tenant has nowhere to stay the tenancy management will refer them to the temporary accommodation team.

What if a tenant has left the property

If a tenant abandons their tenancy and squatters move in knowing it is empty a notice to quit will be issued to the original tenant to end their tenancy. Once the notice has expired (takes four weeks) the tenancy management can arrange for a new tenant to take the property. Once there is a prospective tenant the squatters will be removed using the above procedure.

Occasionally the council may need to go to court for possession from the tenant after the notice to quit expires. The council would ask the court to order the eviction of the squatters using the process below. This means it can take longer because of the need to serve a four week notice and the time it may take to obtain a court hearing.

If a empty property cannot be immediately relet

Where a property is empty due to major repairs, Hillingdon Council will go to court for an order for possession against the squatters.

The tenancy management will visit the property to try and establish who is in occupation. The squatters will be warned they have no right to the property and that legal action, to regain the property will be taken. The tenancy management will inform the Police the property has squatters and where possible, will also inform the electricity and gas companies.

A court hearing is applied for. Visits to the property will be made whilst waiting for the court date, to establish if the squatters have left. If they have the property will be resecured.

At court the council need to prove they are responsible for managing the property and the people occupying the property have not been given a tenancy or permission to be there.

Once the court order is obtained a bailiffs warrant to evict the squatters is applied for. On eviction day staff from the council and the bailiffs will attend the property to carry out the eviction. The property will be secured and arrangements made to carry out work needed such as clearing rubbish or essential repairs.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 20 Feb 2017 at 12:54