Squatting does not provide you with any security
You can be evicted from a squat very easily. The council may be able to help you to find accommodation if squatting is your last resort.
Squatting in a residential property became a criminal offence from 1 September 2012. Squatters can be arrested and, if convicted, can be sent to prison for up to six months or fined up to £5,000, or both.
The law on squatting
Squatting in a residential property is now a criminal offence. Squatters can be arrested by the police. If convicted by a court, a squatter can be sent to prison for up to 6 months, fined up to £5,000, or both.
You cannot be convicted of squatting if you:
- are squatting in commercial premises
- are a tenant or licensee remaining in a property after the tenancy or licence has ended
- entered the property genuinely believing you were a tenant – for example, if a bogus letting agent rented you a property they had no right to
- are a Gypsy or Traveller living on an unauthorised site.
It is illegal to get into a property by breaking in or damaging windows and doors and you could be arrested even if the damage is minimal.
Squatters have a right to be connected to utilities such as gas, electricity and water, but using them without contacting the supplier first is illegal.
Finding a place
Squatting does not provide you with any security and you could be committing a criminal offence if you decide to squat. It is usually best to try and find alternatives to squatting if you can. Some landlords may give permission to stay temporarily in an empty property. If possible, find out who owns the property and what they intend to do with it.
If you have no other options and decide that you want to live in a squat, find out whether there is a local squatters’ group in your area. It’s usually safer to squat through an organised group rather than on your own. Visit the Advisory Service for Squatters website for more information.
It is important to get utilities such as gas, electricity and water connected properly. Using these services without contacting the suppliers is illegal.
Squatters can be evicted much more easily than most other people and in most cases the landlord doesn’t have to get a court order first. If a court order is needed, the landlord can apply for one at any time and doesn’t have to give you any notice. In most cases the court will automatically give her/him the right to get back into the property.
However, the landlord cannot use or threaten violence to get into the property while you are inside. This is the case even if s/he gets a court order. It is illegal for the landlord to force her/his way back in while there is someone inside.
However, if you refuse to leave when the court order is given to you, you can be prosecuted. The landlord can also ask the bailiffs to physically remove you and your belongings from the property immediately. The doors and windows will normally be secured so that you can’t get back in.
Finding a permanent home
Because you will almost certainly be evicted eventually, squatting isn’t a long-term option. However, most squatters are entitled to help and advice from the council and some can also get housing. Squatters are classed as homeless because they don’t have a legal right to live anywhere. The council has a legal duty to provide temporary accommodation for you if you are also:
- eligible for assistance (most people are eligible but asylum seekers and some other people who have lived abroad are not) and
- in priority need (only some homeless people get priority for accommodation). Check on our pages on homelessness for more information on who the law says has priority need.
Some people may be entitled to help from social services even if the housing department won’t help.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.