Squatting is now a criminal offence

From 1 September 2012 squatting in a residential building is an offence, punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a maximum fine of £5000, or both.

The offence is not retrospective for cases where the squatting has ceased, but will apply to squatters who went into occupation before that date and remain in the property now. This does not extend to other categories of property, including commercial buildings.

The change is designed to speed up the recovery of possession by legitimate owners, or tenants of property who have been excluded from their homes, as well as people who own residential buildings they don’t live in, such as landlords, local authorities or second home owners.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Ministry of Justice have together published an online guide to provide advice to those attempting to remove squatters from their premises. This sets out the circumstances in which legitimate owners or occupiers may call the Police to have those squatters removed, and contains advice on how to prevent squatters gaining access to the property in the first place. Further details can be found here.