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Article > Squatters - Get Out OR Get Arrested!

Article kindly supplied by
Redstones Brentwood Lettings & Property Management

Squatting in somebody’s property or home has been a criminal offence for a long time, yet only where there was evidence of forced entry, break in, burglary or criminal damage. This meant that if squatters occupied vacant or abandoned properties and were careful when entering, perhaps via an open window, they weren’t necessarily breaking the law as puzzling as this may seem.

Coupled with this, Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 also made it a criminal offence to gain entry into a property by force, if someone who is dwelling there at the time is opposed to that person entering. So, if that person living there happened to be a squatter for instance, the law would still apply, meaning Police or homeowners were not allowed to forcibly enter their own premises to remove the squatters.

The only legitimate means for a resolution to this situation was for the owner to start court proceedings to evict the squatters, which often could take months.

So what is the situation now?
As from 1st September 2012 it is now a CRIMINAL offence to squat in any RESIDENTIAL property under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 “Offence of squatting in a residential building”, which states

A person commits an offence if:

(a) The person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a ......trespasser,

(b) The person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and

(c) The person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.

What can homeowners do now?
The homeowner can call the police and give them evidence that the offence has taken place. The police now have the right to enter and search the property for the purposes of making an arrest where they have reasonable grounds for believing an offence has been committed.

Important note for Landlords:
The new law would not apply where the person occupying had, at some stage in the past, had the owner’s permission to be there. For example, if a tenant remains in a property after the end of the tenancy without the Landlord’s permission, the Landlord would not be able to use the new law for the purposes of removing the tenant, instead they would have to resort to the traditional means of applying to the Courts for a possession order.

What is the punishment for squatters?

A person convicted of an offence under Section 144 is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale which is currently set at £5,000, or both.

Where do the new rules not apply?

Commercial property is not subject to the new law at this moment in time and will still fall under the previous legislation.

For more information relating to this blog, please contact Redstones Brentwood on 01277 230300 or email us at




About Redstones Brentwood
Redstones are specialists in Residential Lettings & Property Management throughout Brentwood, Chelmsford, Billericay and surrounding areas. We have the expertise, state of the art software and extensive marketing tools to help Landlords let their properties fast and to help Tenants rent their perfect home.

Living within the local community for over 35 years we have extensive knowledge of the local property market and the services and amenities the area has to offer. This knowledge, combined with our own Property Investment experiences, has enabled us to recognise that there is still a need to enhance the current service levels provided to Landlords and Tenants, as they can vary greatly and are often far from ideal.



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