You may be aware of the events of activist groups claiming million pound properties in London. A recent event in February saw the Belgravia Building, owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Goncharenko, raided at midnight to evict the squatters. Some may see these events as an act of political rebellion, however commercially these events can cause significant difficulties and delays for the use and development of properties.
These unwanted ‘intruders’, ‘squatters’ or ‘trespassers’ not only causes stress and delay to development projects, but in some cases block access and cause damage causing high costs and the whole project to fall through.
What do I do if squatters are in my property?
If the squatters refuse to leave peacefully, you’ll need to make an urgent court application for a possession order. Beforehand, there are certain procedural steps which must be completed to ensure that the court grant the order and the trespassers “get the boot”.
With the current pressure on the court system, this is no longer an overnight procedure. On average, it will take 7 – 14 days to obtain the order. If the squatters do not vacate the property after the order has been granted, bailiffs will need to be instructed to remove them forcefully. This again adds a delay of weeks.
This is not a cheap process with court, legal and bailiff fees; the court fee alone being £355. Therefore, it is imperative that you seek legal advice promptly, as “if it isn’t by the book”, not only will the property owner not get an order and have to start over, but they could be criminally prosecuted for an unlawful eviction.