What are Squatters?
Squatting is what happens when a person is occupying an empty or abandoned property which they personally do not own or rent.
They are basically living in the property without the owner’s permission.
The owner usually has no knowledge that this is happening and they have not given any legal rights for the squatter to do this in their property. Sometimes you will find that there is just one squatter in an empty or derelict property, other times there may be a whole group together.
Squatters tend to be homeless people who have nowhere to live so occupying an empty or abandoned property seems to them, to be the best option.
Just being on another person’s property without their consent is not a criminal offence. However, if squatters commit any offences such as criminal damage or theft, their behaviour is punishable against them under the criminal law. The police can take action against them if this happens – even if the damage is minimal.
Empty council properties are usually:
- awaiting repair
- are to be re-decorated
- are waiting to be re-let to new tenants
Councils are keen to ensure that these properties stay empty and undamaged. This ensures that those on the waiting list have the opportunity to find a new home.
What to do if you discover a squatter
Normally, the first person to know that there are squatters living in a particular property would be the neighbours next door to the particular property. If you see somebody breaking into an empty or abandoned property, the first thing you should do is call the police. If you have a caretaker or a housing officer you should alert them also.
If you see any other suspicious behaviour or if you think someone is squatting in a property – you need to contact your local council.
For more information on:
- The Law regarding the removal of squatters
- Eviction of squatters