Squatters have been an inconvenience for landlords, both residential and commercial, for many years. Of course, in residential situations, a person trespassing, or squatting in a house is a criminal offence, and assistance from the police is common.
In a commercial scenario, the situation is far more complex and time-consuming, with a squatter having to be evicted with assistance from the courts and with possession being enforced by County or High Court Enforcement Officers.
Our Litigation department at Bowling & Co recently assisted a client to recover possession of their property from squatters. The commercial building was vacated by its previous tenants some months earlier. The previous tenants requested that our client check if any post had arrived for them in the interim. Upon attending the property to check for any post, it was discovered that the property had been barricaded from the inside and squatters were in possession.
We were contacted immediately for assistance as the property was due for demolition within weeks. Not only did our client need to carry out substantial preparation work prior to the actual demolition beginning, but it was also a concern that the building was in no condition to be inhabited by people.
Despite the current COVID-19 restrictions, landlords should be aware that squatters are not protected from eviction.”
Interim possession order
The standard procedure in such circumstances is to initiate a possession claim, obtain an order for possession, and then enforce it by way of a County or High Court Enforcement Officers. In this situation, however, due to the circumstances, we decided to obtain an interim possession order.
This meant that the “persons unknown” on the premises would be in contempt of court if they failed to vacate the premises by the ordered date. Being in contempt of court is punishable by arrest and/or a fine. Thanks to the interim possession order, we were able to obtain assistance from the local police who aided in the enforcement of the order on the same day as the squatters were in fact in contempt of that very same order.
Unbeknown to our client or us, the property was occupied by several people which was only discovered when the police attended.
Landlords should be aware that the interim possession route can often be a quicker and more cost-effective method of dealing with squatters, however, time is of the essence as applications must be made within 28 days of the landlord becoming aware of the squatters being in possession.
In this case, thanks to our client’s immediate instructions and our swift action, the squatters were evicted within 18 days of proceedings being initiated.
If you would like any more information relating to this article or require assistance with possession matters, commercial or residential, then please feel free to contact me: Telephone – 020 8221 8032, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my profile.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.