A ‘squatter’ is a trespasser who enters and lives in a residential property without the permission of the owner or tenant. 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.

Under the provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (legislation.gov.uk) which came into force on 1 September 2012, squatting in a residential property is now a criminal offence. The legislation does not apply to commercial buildings.

The legislation does not apply:

  • to a tenant or licensee remaining in a home after the tenancy or licence has ended
  • to a gypsy or traveller living on an unauthorised site.

The legislation does not apply to a person who genuinely believed that they were able to live at the property, such as if a bogus letting agent rented out the property without the legal owner or tenant knowing.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 gives the police the power to enter and search premises for the offence of squatting in a residential building.