It is important for landowners to know their legal rights and follow the eviction processes correctly.
What is the difference between a squatter and a trespasser?
None – the proper legal term for a “squatter” is a trespasser.
Is trespassing a criminal offence?
No – it is a civil wrong against the landowner.
However a crime can be committed in certain cases, e.g. where the trespasser threatens an occupier with violence in order to gain entry to the property.
It may also be that case that someone who claims to be a squatter has in fact committed a burglary.
Can the police help me to get move on a trespasser?
Thgey can only move people from land not buildings. Under s 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 the police have a power to direct trespassers to leave land where they reasonably believe that the trespassers have entered the land for the purpose of residing on it, and reasonable steps have been taken by the owner of the land to have them leave, and:
- any of the trespassers have caused damage to the land or to property on the land; or
- any of the trespassers have used abusive or threatening behaviour towards the occupier or his family or any employee or agent of the occupier; or
- the trespassers have between them six or more vehicles on the land.
The police can also remove property or vehicles from the trespassers.
If the police direct trespassers to leave and they fail to leave or return to the land within 3 months, the trespassers are committing an offence under s 61(4) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
NOTE that the power of the police to remove trespassers falling into the above category is discretionary.
Police also have a separate power under s62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to direct trespassers to leave land where they believe there is a suitable alternative site for the trespassers to pitch.
How do I get rid of a trespasser?
If the police will not assist you will have to take action through the civil courts. The process is governed by Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The landowner can make a claim for possession in order to evict the trespassers. In some cases it is appropriate to apply for an Interim Possession Order to remove trespassers whilst waiting for the final hearing.
The landowner must make the application within 28 days of when he first knew or ought to have known that the trespassers had entered the property.
The claim should be started in the County Court for the district in which the land is situated.
It should be noted that the MOD was recently unable to obtain possession against a group of squatters encamped on a military housing estate because it had issued the claim in the wrong court.
Once proceedings have been issued with the court they must be served on the trespassers.
There are strict rules governing how the claim should be served and rules about when service must take place.
There will be a hearing at which the Judge (if satisfied) will make a possession order which must then be served on the trespassers.
What happens after I have obtained a Possession Order?
If the trespassers do not vacate the property within 24 hours after receiving an Interim Possession Order against them then they are committing an offence under s76 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
If the trespassers do not voluntarily vacate following service of the possession order, you will need to obtain a warrant for possession. This means that a County Court Bailiff or High Court Sheriff will take steps to force the trespassers to leave.
If you experience trespassers on your land it is important that you:
- Politely ask the trespassers to leave as soon as you become aware of them.
- Contact the local police as they might be able to remove the trespassers without having to go through the courts process.
- If the police attend, try to be there at the same time so you have a good idea of what is happening.
- Do not agree with the trespassers that they can stay for a certain amount of time as this may affect your right to remove them at a later date.
- Take note of any damage that you believe the trespassers may have caused to your property.
- If you need to go through the court process to evict the trespassers, obtain legal advice as soon as possible to ensure that the correct procedure is followed.
If you have a trespasser please call us today for help in evicting him/her.