Any unoccupied property that is not sufficiently secured will naturally be susceptible to break-ins. These are obviously highly undesirable and usually prove incredibly expensive. When break-ins involve squatters taking unlawful residence in a property however, things can become a great deal more convoluted.

What are squatters?

Squatter preventionA squatter is someone without a right to be in a property, in other words, a trespasser. Since it became a criminal offence in 2012 to trespass upon residential property, the old and much publicised ‘squatters’ rights’ have been quashed and it has now become possible for residential property and landowners to pursue criminal proceedings through the courts in order to eject squatters. Whilst it is not possible to employ a threatening approach, it is acceptable, once an order is obtained, to call in the police to force entry.

In cases where illegal squatting renders the owner of the property homeless, the owner has a legal right to gain access through the door and demand that the trespassers leave. If they refuse then the police can be called in.

How to legally remove squatters

There are two methods to remove squatters from a residential property. Firstly an Interim Possession Order (IPO) which evicts the squatters, and secondly, a claim for possession, which both evicts the squatters and makes a claim for damages.

When making a claim for possession, the legal process must be followed to the letter. No threat or force can be used because this will be considered a crime.

The process for using an IPO involves completing an application form and sending it to your local county court. They will respond with a confirmation plus documents for you to serve on the squatters within 48 hours. After this, the squatters must leave within 24 hours. If they refuse, and this is certainly not unheard of, you will then need to apply for a warrant of possession which involves the court sending a bailiff to evict the squatter.

So, there you have the legal process summed up. As you can see, it is quite a complex process, and it’s even worse for non-residential property where it is still not classed as a criminal offence for squatters to take residence, and you have to follow time consuming civil proceedings in order to evict them.

So, surely it is best to avoid the whole situation in the first place. But how? Let’s take a look at security measures you can implement in order to prevent unauthorised access by squatters so you can escape the whole convoluted scenario of evicting them.

How to prevent squatters

If your property, residential or commercial, is being left unoccupied for some time, you will need to take measures to protect its entry points so that squatters cannot gain entry.

For certain commercial properties, it is wise to protect them with solid steel security doors and ensure fire exits are secured too. For residential properties, be sure to fully lock all windows and doors and engage shutters where fitted. If they are not fitted, seriously consider them for that added layer of protection.

Windows can be fitted with steel and anti-tamper fixings to strengthen their level of defence.

Never forget to secure skylights, basement access and other lesser used entry points. Squatters can be cunning in their attempts to gain access.

An intruder alarm combined with CCTV will act as a deterrent as well as alerting you or an emergency response service to a break-in attempt, allowing potential squatters to be thwarted in their attempts to gain access.

Be sure to decommission all utilities so that the property becomes far less appealing to potential squatters.

Finally, undertake regular inspections to check that everything is as it should be, and keep a record of those inspections including photographic and video evidence. It is highly likely that your insurance provider will demand this.

Need help protecting your property from squatters?

Squatters are a known issue in many areas of London. Removing them, whilst easier than it used to be, still remains a drawn out process.

If you want to prevent squatters accessing your property in the first place, talk to Barry Bros Security. Our experts can talk you through all the appropriate measures you can put in place, working with your budget and tailoring everything to suit your specific needs.