A significant number of people in the UK live in otherwise empty buildings and many argue this an example of sustainable living and a solution to the problems of homelessness and vacant properties. A squatter is not committing a criminal offence by being in another person’s property without their permission. However they are subject to criminal charges if they commit offences such as damage or theft to or in that property.
If an owner attempts to use force in order to remove the squatters, they could be accused of a criminal act under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. People can be tempted to take the law into their own hands, but violence on either side can result in prosecution.
However, by seeking the services of a solicitor and following the correct legal procedures, in many cases the situation can be resolved easily and peacefully for both sides. A solicitor can advise you on what steps to take and what documents you will need to proceed with an eviction or to obtain the necessary court orders.
Law Society President Robert Heslett said: "The law surrounding this issue is undeniably complex and this is why people can often feel confused as to what are the legal rights of all concerned. It is essential to consult the services of a qualified legal professional if you are a landlord or property owner who seeks an eviction.
"In these cases, time is of the essence and a solicitor can help the procedure move as quickly and painlessly as possible.
"Equally, if someone feels their eviction is unfair or unlawful, they should seek immediate advice in order to be fully aware of their rights. The law exists to protect all parties and it is extremely important these issues are dealt with in a peaceful and legal manner."
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