Dealing with squatters or trespassers on your land or property
If you discover trespassers or squatters in your property or on your land you will need an order from the Court to remove them. In cases where the trespasser does not dispute your entitlement to recover possession, the procedure will be straightforward for obtaining the order and recovering possession, but if the trespasser does dispute your entitlement there will be a full hearing before a judge. It is always a good idea to obtain advice when seeking to recover possession of land or property as the process may turn out to be complicated than you originally thought. You must never try to remove the trespassers yourself as you may be committing an offence.
What are the first steps I need to take?
You will need evidence to show the Court that:
- You own the land or property – you can do this by obtaining formal Land Registry documents known as Official Copies
- There are trespassers on your property or land – it is useful to take photographs, or keep a log of people and vehicles. If necessary statements can be taken from other people who have witnessed the trespassers.
Whilst it is not essential to have the names of the people unlawfully occupying the land or property, if you can find out this information, it will assist you in making the application to the Court.
Making the application
Usually an application will be made to the Court and the Court will fix a date for the hearing. You will have to serve the trespassers with a copy of the application and this is usually carried out by instructing a process server.
If the trespasser does not attend the hearing the Court will usually make an order in your favour granting you immediate possession. If the trespasser then refuses to leave voluntarily, you will have to get a Bailiff involed to remove them from the premises.
If the trespasser attends the hearing and persuades the Court they may have a legal right to remain in the property, the Court will then usually fix a date for a longer hearing, when both parties will have the opportunity to put forward their arguments.
Other types of application – an Interim possession order
This is a fast-track procedure which, if successful and an order is granted, will require the trespassers or squatters to leave within 24 hours of the order being served on them.
This procedure has a number of requirements which need to be met before you can apply, including:
- The application must be made within 28 days of learning of the illegal occupation of your property.
- The land concerned is not open land
- That you are simply seeking possession (not compensation)
Once the Court has issued your application and set a hearing date, you must 'serve' the documents on the trespassers within 24 hours. After doing this, you must fill in a form detailing how the documents were served. If the judge finds in your favour, you must serve the order for possession of the property on the occupiers within 48 hours and complete another form confirming the order was served. If the trespasser does not leave the property then they are committing a criminal offence and the police should be informed and you can ask them to arrest the trespasser.
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For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.