From tomorrow, it is a criminal offence to squat in a residential property in England and Wales.
Squatting in Residential Property is Criminal Offence
The maximum penalty for the offence will be six months’ imprisonment, and/or a £5,000 fine.
Squatting means someone has intentionally entered a residential building as a trespasser and either lives there, or plans to live there without the property owner’s consent.
Under the new legislation, it will no longer be necessary for the owner to ask the trespasser to leave before they can involve the police.
Police will now have a specific responsibility to enter a property and arrest anyone believed to be squatting. They can also ignore squatter’s rights notices.
It will be more difficult for trespassers to claim trespassers’ rights, as their habitation will be a criminal offence.
The new offence will not concern residential tenants that remain in a property that they have not paid rent for. Those who fail to pay rent will be subject to ordinary eviction processes.
It will also not apply to those who believe they have permission to live in a residential property. For example, if a rogue letting agent has allowed an unsuspecting renter to live in someone else’s property.
The offence will neither concern squatters who have already been living in a residential property before 1st September.
The offence was included in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.