Squatters out! But what does the new law really mean for landlords?
In September squatting was made a criminal offence for the first time. This means squatters can now be removed from residential properties and sentenced to up to a year in prison or fined up to £5000.
This sounds great in theory but how will the new law be applied in practice?
According to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act (LASPO) a person can be charged with squatting if:
- They are in a residential building having entered as a trespasser,
- They know, or ought to know, that they are a trespasser, and
- They live, or intend to live, in the building.
Prior to the new law, which came into force in last month, a landlord faced a laborious task to remove the squatter, taking trespass proceedings in the County Court in order to obtain a possession order before employing a bailiff to evict them. It was a long, and potentially costly, process which usually took between six and eight weeks.
The new legislation could relieve landlords of this burden and associated, leaving the police to remove squatters for them. However with police resources stretched more than ever at present many remain unsure if the change will have the desired effect, posing questions such as:
- Are the police willing to assist in such matters and, if so, how long will it take to deal with the issue?
- Will the landlord have to wait an inordinate amount of time for squatters to be dealt with, potentially even longer than it would have taken them previously, thus costing them more money in void periods and damages?
- Will the criminalisation of squatting even act as a deterrent?
This “wait and see approach” is by no means an attractive option for landlords who will undoubtedly be losing more money with every day that passes.
Specialising in helping landlords with the legalities of letting and regaining possession of their property, the Goldsmith Williams Landlord Assist team will keep you up to date on this developing area of law.
However if you are currently experiencing problems with squatters and need some help and advice, do not hesitate to get in touch. As with many landlord related issues, the sooner you act, the quicker the problem can be resolved and the less financial impact it has.
Content correct at time of publication