The last five years has seen an increase in unoccupied housing being seized by squatters, unfortunately it would seem that squatters have more rights to a property than the home owner does. There is very little you can do to remove them without going to court and spending a small fortune in eviction notices. If you are successful you then have the financially draining task of having to re-decorate and furnish the property as most squatters will not bother to clean or keep the property in good shape.
The most worrying trend that seems to be sweeping across the UK is foreign settlers that ‘house watch’ when they find a house that is unoccupied they quickly move all their belongings in, change the locks and take over. Squatter’s rights only seem to cover those that move into a property that is vacant but worryingly houses have been seized when it is occupied. There have been reports of unsuspecting people going about their daily lives of working, going to the shops and going on holiday only to come back and find that people have moved in, changed the locks and claiming the house as theirs.
The police only usually get involved if they have broken in or caused criminal damage, if they managed to find a way in without causing any damage then you will need to have a backup plan. It is extremely disheartening to know that you could go to work in the morning and come back to find that your house has been taken over by low life. Usually squatters are those that cannot afford to pay rent, drug dealers, alcoholics and students are then most common squatters. Then there are tenants who stop paying rent and then claim squatter’s rights.
If you do find that you are a victim of squatters then seek advice immediately don’t let them get too comfortable. Most people will say burn the house down, threaten them or break in but if they were to call the police you would be in trouble not them as you would’ve been the one to make the first move. It’s unfortunate that at the moment there is no law in place to protect homeowners so here are a few things you can do to deter squatters:
- Have a timer that will switch on the lights automatically every now and then
- If you have a good neighbour ask them to go in and check the post and draw curtains etc
- Always make sure the windows and doors are locked, you may need additional security
- Install security cameras or an alarm you can get them at your local DIY store and do it yourself
- Put up signs saying ‘no trespassing allowed’ or ‘CCTV in action’ these can also deter squatters and thieves
- Instruct a security specialist to look after you property when vacant, they can also board up the property using steel rather than timber
Takes steps to look after your property whether it is your family home or a let property.