Your rights and Police Powers on Squatting

The Law

Recent changes in the law have given magistrates' courts and the police further powers to assist members of the public after they have suffered problems with squatting. (The Criminal Law Act 1997 as amended and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). The law applies only to residential property and assists in two circumstances:

  1. the lawful occupier has been excluded by trespassers or
  2. where someone has the right to move into premises and finds that squatters have moved in before they can take up residence.

The law calls the persons suffering from incidents of squatting 'displaced residential occupiers' or 'protected intending occupier'.

Trespassing is a very complex area of the law and you are advised to obtain legal advice before taking action as the courts may view mistakes very seriously.

Procedures to regain possession of premises

To take back premises from squatters by force is an offence and you will still be liable to comply with all the laws relating to assaults and public order. However, the new law provides proceedures to obtain documents giving you the power to enter premises where you have a right to live, and demand that squatters leave. The document can be obtained from a Justice of the peace or Commissioner for Oaths. You are advised to obtain advice on this from a solicitor, the magistrates' courts office or citizens advice bureau. The procedures will not take long to complete.

Police powers

Police have powers to assist you, but will want to establish first that you have a right to enter and take possession of the premises. To establish this right, the police will want to see the correct documentation, and will advise you to get this first. Once your rights are established to the satisfaction of the police, they will agree with you what assistance can be given. There arediscretionary powers of arrest in the law which the police may use if the squatters fail to comply with the directions of documents issued by a court. The police will not give you legal advice on trespassing.

Some "DOs"

  • Do get proper legal advice
  • Do get the proper documentation
  • Do keep calm and be patient
  • Do assist the police with statements, if necessary
  • Do keep a record of everything that happens- it may be needed as evidence

Some "DON'Ts"

  • Don't use violence or make threats
  • Don't take the law into your own hands
  • Don't lose your temper

1st May, 1998

Extracted from the Westmercia Police Website, many thanks from

lots of squatters, displaced persons and me.