Selling a Property with Squatters Guide 2024 Update

Estimated reading time 12 minutes

If you’re a homeowner, you know squatters can be a nightmare. What makes things worse is
that the information about how to get rid of squatters and sell your property can be vague.
Though people may often confuse squatting and trespassing, these are two different things.
This guide from Gaffsy aims to put you right and help you to move ahead.

While trespassing may be seen as a legal offence, squatting means moving into an abandoned
or unused house. Thus, if you have squatters in your home and there’s no other legal offence,
your dispute may be treated as a civil issue, and getting the squatters to evict could be difficult.

Thankfully, there are ways to sell your property that has squatters. This article discusses some
of the top tips on how to sell your home even if you have squatters.

What is a squatter?

Squatters are individuals who occupy and live in a property without permission from the owner or legal right to do so. A person who has fallen behind with their rent and continues to live in the property would not be defined as a squatter.

What is trespassing?

Trespassing is the act of illegally entering another person’s property. In some cases, the entering of the property may have been lawful as the owner originally gave permission, but subsequently becomes trespassing if the permission is withdrawn or ends.

Understanding squatters’ law

1. If a uniformed police officer believes a property is being squatted in they have the power to enter and search the premises for the purpose of arresting a person for the offence of squatting in a residential building under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). They can arrest the person without a warrant.

2. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, section 144 makes squatting in a residential property an offence, where:

  • a person entered and remains in the property as a trespasser
  • they know, or ought to know, they are a trespasser and
  •  they are living in the building or intend to live there for any period
  • a request has been made to leave the premises by or on behalf of a displaced residential occupier or protected intended occupier and does not leave.
  • under the Legal Aid sentencing and punishment of Offenders Act 2012, section 144 if the offender is arrested and, convicted they may be fined £5,000 and/or imprisoned for a maximum of 6 months

3. Although squatting in non-residential building or land is not in itself a crime, it is a crime to damage the property, breaking windows or doors to enter, vandalising, not leaving when told to by a court, stealing property, using electricity and or gas without permission, dumping rubbish etc. This behaviour could result in a criminal damage case being brought against the offenders under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

4. It is also usually a crime not to leave land or property when you are instructed to do so by the owner, the police, the council and or a repossession order.

UK squatters’ rights

Long-term squatters do have rights, if they can prove they have occupied the property they’re living in continuously for 10 years (12 years if the property is not registered with HM Land Registry), that they have acted as owners and never had the owner’s permission (previous renter could not apply) to live there; then they can apply to become the registered owner of property or land. 

They would need to fill in a form for adverse possession, send it and a statement to the HM Land registry citizen centre.  The HM Land Registry then decides if the application is valid and notifies the owner.  The original owner of the land then has 65 days to accept or reject the application.  Any objection will usually result in the application automatically being rejected.  However, if there are no objections the applicant will then be registered as the owner of the property.

A long-term squatter can reapply after 2 years if they are still in possession of the property and the owner has not tried to remove them or reclaim the property. It is imperative therefore to try and remove the squatters immediately.

How do you remove squatters from your property?

Under no circumstances should you attempt to evict squatters by force or by threatening them as this illegal and you may be prosecuted. What you need to do is try and evict them safely and legally by following the guidelines below:

Firstly, the owner should call the police as they will have the authority to legally remove trespassers from residential properties – Remember that whilst the police can evict squatters of a residential property they can only evict squatters from a commercial property if the squatters have committed a criminal act.

Secondly, the owner should serve an eviction notice.

If that does not work and it’s been 28 days or less since you found out your property’s been squatted in you can apply an IPO by using form N130 and submitting it to your local county court. (if you have the help to fill out the form then you can link the N130 to that rather than gov website).

The owner must post a copy of the possession claim forms through the letterbox or attach it to the front door of the squatted property at least 5 days before the court hearing (or 2 days if squatting in commercial property). These must include a defence form and details of the time and place of the court hearing.

Finally, to repossess your property, you need to claim possession. This can be done on the IPO form or online separately. However, you cannot use the IPO if you want to claim damages that the squatters caused, or if you are evicting a former tenant or sub-letter. You could make a possession claim if you discovered the squatting over 28 days ago. 

Note after being served with an IPO squatters can be sent to prison if they do not leave your property within 24 hours and do not stay away from your property for the following 12 months.

Gaffsy recommends taking the following action if your property is empty

Do not underestimate how great the risk of squatters occupying an empty property is. The Ministry or Justice estimated in 2010 that there were approximately 20,000 people squatting in unoccupied properties across the UK. When you consider the number of empty properties has increased by 25% over a 10 year period and the significant increase in the cost of living and housing crisis it is not unrealistic to expect the number of people squatting to have increased by a similar margin.

Your empty properties is at risk of being occupied by squatters. This includes empty buy to let properties, properties left empty between an owner moving out and a new owner moving in, and properties and land which are awaiting sale or redevelopment. Don’t forget, Gaffsy can help you with selling buy-to-let property, even with squatters present.

What steps can I take to protect my property from squatters?

  1. Secure the premises
  2. Increase security, install an alarm system, cameras, security lights
  3. Ensure all access points doors, windows, roofs are shut and locked using strong locks/deadlocks
  4. Inspect your property regularly and remove mail or rubbish that may have built up
  5. During short term vacancies as well as the above make the property appear lived in, use light timers, let neighbours park in the drive. Put a faux plant in the window
  6. If you are unable to visit your property regularly and or your property is likely to empty for a long time install steel window covers and fit strong doors.  
  7. Shut off all the services such as water, electricity and gas
  8. Another option is to employ live in guardians who will protect empty properties through occupation by working professionals

If you don’t protect your property squatters could occupy your home and bring down the value of your property.

Can you sell a house with squatters?

Removing squatters is costly both emotionally and financially as even once they are gone you will no doubt be left with a property that is need of total renovation. And trying to sell a property with squatters in is going to be difficult as it will be impossible to gain access for traditional viewings. Properties with squatters in place will not be appealing to almost any class of buyer, as the legal and financial risks can be immense, a professional property buyer like Gaffsy is likely to be the best course of action, our decades of combined experience allow us to offer on problem properties with confidence. Squatted properties are also virtually impossible to insure, leaving you at at significant financial risk should your squatters accidentally or deliberately damage your property. However, while squatting is a big problem and a constant cause of worry and concern for owners of empty properties there are options available to you:

If you have an empty property, are worried about squatters and do not want to go to the expense of securing your property then contact Gaffsy. We are a cash house buyer, meaning that there is no waiting around for chains to complete and no bumps in the road causing unnecessary delays we will make you an offer for your empty house today. Our expert valuation team will have a cash offer within hours of us receiving property details and our team of solicitors are on hand to ensure the legal process proceeds smoothly once the offer is accepted, allowing you to sell us your property quickly, efficiently and for a fair price.

If you have squatters and do not want to go through the process of eviction and want to sell your house fast, reach out to Gaffsy. The eviction process is guaranteed to take months or even years and can run into the tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs and subsequent repairs. By choosing a professional cash buyer like Gaffsy you won’t have to go through the usual estate agent routine of photos, home reports, multiple viewings, we will value your property and make you a free cash offer today.

If after dealing with squatters and bearing the expensive legal costs, you may want to sell your house as-is instead of renovating it. If that is the case then consider selling your home to Gaffsy. We buy any house in any condition, we will make a cash offer, with absolutely no fees and no obligation. We also offer a sell flat fast service too for homeowners and landlords who have apartments and flats impacted by squatters. Often properties left in extremely poor condition are deemed ‘uninhabitable’ and therefore cannot be purchased with a mortgage, Gaffsy purchases houses and flats using only their own funds, eliminating the lengthy delays around sourcing finance that most buyers face.

Last word, if you don’t own an empty house or derelict home but know of one in your street or neighbourhood, send an email to Gaffsy with a photo of the property and its full address. If Gaffsy is successful in purchasing the property, a cash reward will be sent to the initial reporter. Get in touch today on 0207 459 4546 or info@gaffsy.com.

Squatters FAQs

Below we have compiled some of our most commonly asked questions regarding squatters and property. However, if you have any further queries don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The time it takes to remove squatters from a property depends on the laws of your jurisdiction, the complexity of the case, and the cooperation of the squatters. It could take several weeks or months.

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No, you cannot physically remove squatters from your property. Doing so could result in criminal charges against you. You need to follow the legal process to remove them.

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If the squatters refuse to leave after you have obtained an eviction order from the court, you may need to hire a bailiff to physically remove them from the property. You can also choose to sell your home to a cash house buyer, such as Gaffsy.

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Yes, you should disclose to potential buyers that there were squatters in the property. Failing to disclose this information could lead to legal problems in the future.

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Yes, having squatters in your property could negatively affect its value, as potential buyers may be deterred by the presence of squatters and the legal issues surrounding their eviction. However, with Gaffsy you can rest assured we will give you a fair and realistic price for your home when selling to us.

Get a Free Cash Offer

Yes, you can sell a property with a pending eviction order, but you should disclose this information to potential buyers. Some buyers may be hesitant to purchase a property that is currently involved in a legal dispute. However, get in touch with Gaffsy today and our experts will help you make the correct decision.

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