Eviction of squatters

What is squatting?

Squatting means entering a property and living there without the permission of the owner or the tenant.

Squatting is usually a last resort. It isn't a long-term option if you are homeless. You will almost certainly be evicted and possibly arrested.

If you stayed on in a property after your tenancy or licence ended you are not a squatter.

When you could be arrested

Squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence.

You can be arrested and if convicted:

  • sent to prison for up to 6 months

  • fined up to £5,000

You should not be arrested if you:

  • are squatting in commercial premises

  • stayed on in the property after your tenancy or licence ended

  • entered the property genuinely believing you were a tenant – for example, if a bogus letting agent rented you a property they had no right to

  • are a Gypsy or Traveller living on an unauthorised site

How squatters can be evicted

You can be easily evicted as a squatter if:

  • the police are not willing to carry out an arrest

  • the property owner does not want to involve the police

  • you are living in commercial premises 

The owner can enter and change the locks while you're all out.

If you or another squatter is in the property, the owner must normally get a court order if you refuse to leave. It is illegal for the owner to use or threaten violence against you.

The owner must post a copy of their possession claim forms through the letterbox or attach it to the front door at least 5 days before the court hearing (or 2 days if you are squatting in commercial property). These must include a defence form and details of the time and place of the court hearing.

If you are not a squatter you must challenge the owner’s case. Do this by returning the defence form to the court and go to the court hearing.

If you are a squatter, the court will normally order you to leave the property immediately.

If you don’t leave, the owner must ask the court bailiffs to evict you.

Homelessness help from the council

Squatters are classed as homeless because you don't have the right to be living where you are.

You can apply to your local council for help as a homeless person.

The council should provide you with advice on finding somewhere to stay if you are single and homeless. In some areas, specialist services may provide emergency help as an alternative to sleeping rough.

The council may have to provide you with emergency housing if you are in priority need (for example, if you are pregnant, have children or are vulnerable). 

The council doesn't have to provide emergency or longer-term housing if immigration or residences restrictions apply to you (for example if you are an asylum seeker or your immigration status means you have 'no recourse to public funds').

Still need help?

If you're facing eviction or homelessness:

More information on squatting is available from the Advisory Service for Squatters.

Last updated: 18 June 2020

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