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Housing Minister Grant Shapps has published new guidance on how homeowners can stand up for their rights against squatters.
The online guide published by the Communities and Local Government Department sets out the rights of landlords and other homeowners and explains what to do if a property is invaded.
Squatters illegally occupy about 20,000 homes – some move in while the owners are away for only a short time on holiday or business.
A typical scenario is for the squatters to claim a ‘letting agent’ has charged them a fee of several thousand pounds to rent them the home for 12 months and refuse to move out even if the police are called as the squatters broke in to the home.
Some homeowners and landlords have had to go through the courts to repossess the property only to find the squatters have stripped out anything of value and left huge repair bills behind.
The guidance makes clear that a squatter commits an offence if they fail to leave a residential property when required to do so by or on behalf of either a displaced residential occupier or certain other occupiers whose interest in the premises is protected under the legislation.
Anyone looking to remove squatters from their home can also apply for an interim possession order.
This requires squatters to leave the property within 24 hours of the order being served or they are committing a criminal offence and can be arrested and face up to six months imprisonment.
Mr Shapps said: “Recent high profile cases have served to illustrate the distress and misery that squatters can cause. I want to shut the door to squatters once and for all, and for homeowners to know their rights just as well as those looking to take over their properties.
“That’s why I’m publishing advice making clear how the law is on their side, and that there are steps they can take to take back their home quickly and effectively.”
More detailed advice is published at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/advicesquatters.
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