Squatting and the law

1. Overview

Squatting is when someone deliberately enters property without permission and lives there, or intends to live there. This is sometimes known as ‘adverse possession’.

Squatting in residential buildings (like a house or flat) is illegal. It can lead to 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both.

Anyone who originally enters a property with the permission of the landlord is not a squatter. For example, if you’re renting a property and fall behind with rent payments you’re not squatting if you continue to live there.

Although squatting in non-residential building or land isn’t in itself a crime, it’s a crime to damage the property.

It’s usually a crime not to leave land or property when you’re instructed to do so by:

  • the owner
  • the police
  • the council
  • a repossession order