Eviction of squatters

Squatting means entering and living in a property without permission from the person who could give you permission to live there. This person might be the owner or a tenant.

Squatters have very limited rights and can sometimes be evicted without a court order.

Homelessness help if you are squatting

You count as homeless if you are a squatter because you do not have permission or rights to live where you are.

The council may have to give you emergency housing if you are in priority need.

For example, if you:

  • are pregnant

  • have children

  • are vulnerable 

You need to meet immigration or residence conditions to get council help.

How you could be evicted if you're squatting

The owner or tenant could:

  • change the locks when you are out

  • call the police if you are committing a criminal offence

  • get a court order to evict you quickly

It is illegal for anyone to use or threaten violence against you

Owner or tenant changes the locks

The owner or tenant can change the locks if no one is there to stop them doing this.

This called a 'peaceable eviction' and can only happen if everyone is out.

Owner or tenant calls the police

If you are committing a criminal offence, the owner or tenant can call the police if you do not leave when asked to.

This can only happen if you’re squatting in a residential property.

When squatting is a criminal offence

Living in a residential property that you moved into without permission is a criminal offence.

Refusing to leave a residential property when asked to by the person with the right to live there is also a criminal offence. For example, an owner occupier or tenant.

You could have a defence if you genuinely believed you were a tenant when you moved in. For example, if a bogus letting agent rented you a property they had no right to.

When squatting is not a criminal offence

It is not a criminal offence if you squat in a commercial property or open land.

But you need to make sure you do not commit other offences such as criminal damage.

Owner or tenant gets a court order

The owner or tenant must apply to court to evict you if you’re in the property and refuse to leave when asked - unless you are committing a criminal offence.

Sometimes owners or tenants will get a court order if they do not want to involve the police.

They must post a copy of their court claim forms through the letterbox or attach them to the front door at least:

  • 5 days before the court hearing if you’re in a residential property

  • 2 days before the hearing if you’re in a commercial property

The forms must include a defence form and the time and place of the court hearing.

Fill in the defence form and explain why you are living in the property.

You could ask the Advisory Service for Squatters if they could help.

The court could make an 'interim possession order' which tells you to leave within 24 hours of getting it. It's a criminal offence if you do not leave.

If you do not leave, the owner must ask court bailiffs to evict you.

If your tenancy or lodger's agreement has ended

You are not a squatter if you:

  • stay in your home after your tenancy or lodger's agreement ends

  • had permission from the homeowner or tenant to move in

Sometimes landlords tell the police that someone is a squatter when they are not. It could be an illegal eviction if the police help the landlord to evict you.

Landlords usually need to get a court order to evict you.

The exception to this is lodgers and people who have been living in rent-free accommodation with the landlord's permission.

Find out more about the eviction of lodgers.

Gypsy and Traveller communities on unauthorised sites

You are not squatting even if you do not have legal permission to be on the land.

Find out more about eviction from an unauthorised site.

Still need help?

Contact the Advisory Service for Squatters.

Last updated: 2 April 2023

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