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Rights of squatters

This content applies to England

The security of tenure of squatters, and their rights under homelessness legislation.

Security of tenure

Squatters have the least security of all occupiers. Court proceedings can be taken against them at any time and without warning. In some instances, they can be evicted without a court order (see the page on Eviction without a court order for details).

Squatters are not entitled to a separate possession order if a possession order has already been granted against the property they are occupying. The warrant used to execute the possession order operates against anyone in occupation. An example of this sort of situation is where squatters move into a property where the landlord has gained a possession order against her/his tenant and the tenant is not in residence.

Further, from 1 September 2012 a person squatting in a residential property can be arrested. for more information see the page Criminal offences and squatting.

Rights under homelessness legislation

Usually, squatters do not have accommodation that they have a legal right to occupy, so they will be homeless within the meaning of Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.[1] Advisers should therefore check whether the squatter is in priority need (see the section on investigating priority need for details) and advise her/him of any rights to housing from the local authority, under Parts 6 and 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

Where a squatter is in occupation of a property owned by the local authority, and s/he satisfies the relevant criteria (ie that s/he is eligible, homeless, in priority need and not intentionally homeless), but the local authority refuses to accept the application, the squatter may apply to the court for judicial review (see the page on Defences for information) of any subsequent decision to issue a claim for possession of the property.

The basis for judicial review would be the failure by the local authority, in taking the decision, to have regard to its own failure in exercising its statutory duty.[2] Possession proceedings should be adjourned pending the result of the judicial review.

See LA duties: applying as homeless for more information on making a homelessness application under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. The section on Allocation of LA housing contains information on local authority housing allocations under Part 6 of that Act.

[1] s.175(1) Housing Act 1996.

[2] West Glamorgan County Council v Rafferty (1968) 18 HLR 375 CA; Avon County Council v Buscott [1988] 1 All ER 841 CA.

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