Removing Trespassers/Squatters From Your Property or Land

17th February 2020 Commercial Litigation

There are different types of trespass to land and property, ranging from a lodger who overstays their welcome to a large group of travellers occupying commercial land/property.

There are various ways to remove trespassers and travellers from your land/property with differing requirements and timeframes for each situation.

A land/property owner may find it relatively simple to remove a group of travellers from open land, as they will be able to exercise their Common Law right to remove travellers using reasonable force (subject to not causing a breach of the peace). However, at the other end of the spectrum is where you have to remove a trespasser or squatter from a residential property who entered or remained on the property with the authority of someone who had the right to occupy the property at that time. Here you will need to ensure that you obtain a possession order against the occupant before evicting them, otherwise you may find yourself having committed a civil and criminal offence of unlawful eviction; evicting trespassers/squatters in this way can be complicated and is likely to take 3-4 months minimum.

Where squatters/travellers occupy a commercial property (as opposed to open land), you will not be able to exercise your Common Law right to remove the trespassers using reasonable force, but you can take advantage of the more expedited option to obtain an Interim Possession Order against them. Subject to the court dealing with these matters efficiently and having availability, we can normally obtain possession of the property within about two weeks of being instructed.

JMW regularly act in claims across the full spectrum in relation to travellers, squatters and over stayers and you should always exercise caution and take legal advice before taking any action yourselves.

People occupying land generally have protection and this has been shown in the recent case of Bromley London Borough Council v Person Unknown. In this case the Court refused an injunction application brought by Bromley London Borough Council preventing travellers from setting up camp on 171 separate sites in the London Borough of Bromley. The rationale behind this was that such an injunction would have been in conflict with European Convention of Human Rights and Equality Act and should only be available to local authorities where there was no other practical solution or that there was the immediate potential for serious issues to arise.

If you would like further advice as to how to regain control of your property or land from unwelcome visitors or over stayers, please contact the Property Litigation Team at JMW.

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Richard Glover is a Partner located in Manchester in our Commercial Litigation department

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