Squatting is when someone enters and lives in a property or on land without the permission of the owner or the person legally entitled to occupy it. A former tenant who stays on in a property after their tenancy has ended is not regarded as a squatter because originally they had the right or permission to enter the property.
Unless squatters leave voluntarily or you secure a peaceable re-entry, the only legal way to remove squatters is with a court possession order. You should not try to remove squatters yourself or you could be accused of a criminal act under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Since 1 September 2012 squatting in a residential building is a criminal offence. Squatters can be arrested by the police and if convicted can be sent to prison for 6 months, be fined up to £5,000 or both. Those who find squatters in their homes or any other residential building should call the police and report a criminal offence. However, the new offence does not include commercial premises and accordingly there are concerns that well-informed squatters will simply move their attention from residential to commercial properties.
Non-residential property is generally any building or land that isn”t designed to be lived in. Simply being on another person’s non-residential property without their permission is not usually a crime but if squatters commit other crimes (e.g. causing damage when entering the property and stealing from the property) the police can take action against them. In order to recover possession of non-residential property it generally remains necessary to obtain a court order for possession. In addition, it is often necessary to use court bailiffs to enforce an order of possession and secure the removal of the squatters. In some situations you can ask the court for an interim possession order and then within 24 hours of this being served the squatters will be committing a criminal offence and may be arrested.