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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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What action can a property owner legally take when there is

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What action can a property owner legally take when there is a squatter in their rental property with his dangerous looking dog?

Have you reported this to the police? Squatting has been a criminal offence in England & Wales since October 2012 and hence, is a police matter. Unfortunately, the majority of police are not aware of this.

You may therefore need to speak to a senior officer.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We reported this to the local police and they sent a dog warden who identified the dog as an American bulldog - adding that it was not dangerous. However, the dog's owner (the squatter) said he wouldn't trust it with anyone. We are aware of the law on squatting and of it being a police matter but the local police said it was not their responsibility and advised us to contact the Citizens' Advice Bureau.
Our question was what would be our legal position if we arrived at the property with the local dog warden in order to change the locks in an attempt to take possession of the property? Are we within our rights to take possession of our property from a squatter?

I’m not talking about reporting this to the police in respect of the dog. I’m talking about reporting this to the police in respect of the person squatting in residential property which is illegal.

Here it is in very few words from the government. It doesn’t give you the statutory provision though which is, the Legal aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which is a rather odd title for what it does. Tthe relevant section is 144 of chapter 9

The police will argue that this is a civil matter (because they can’t be bothered) and that he isn’t a trespasser because he was invited into the property by his mother. If they still refuse to do anything, make a formal complaint to the chief constable in writing.

You cannot do anything when the person is in occupation because you are not allowed to manhandle them without a court order.

If you change the locks when the person is out, and the person breaks back in, it’s criminal damage and that is definitely a police matter.

If the person in occupation feels differently, and they are going to argue that this is not illegal because they were a guest of their mother and hence their occupation is legitimate or at least started legitimately, they are then going to have to go to court to say that the eviction was unlawful.

So what you do really depends on whether you want to be proactive or reactive.

If you want to be guaranteed that you’re going to be taking someone to court rather than being taken to court, then the only thing you can do is make an application to court to have him evicted.

There is another school of thought and that is that as he is only a guest in the property (not an illegal occupier but merely a guest) he can actually just be given reasonable notice to quit which you will find here.

Hence, if he does take you to court for illegal eviction, you have 2 defences, : 1, he is a trespasser in a residential property which is an illegal action and 2 if he is a legitimate guest, he has been given reasonable notice to quit (one month probably) and you are now entitled to lock him out.

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We can still exchange emails.

Best wishes.


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your answers. We don't quite understand this issue of him being a 'guest invited into the property by his mother'. Would this stand when his mother had an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement stating that 'not without the landlord's prior consent allow or keep any pet or any kind of animal at the property'. The mother has started a new tenancy elsewhere (without informing us) from 26 August as witnessed by a council tax demand we have received.

If the mother had an AST she is entitled to have guests in the property. If she allows someone to come in with a pet and stay in the property, then she has breached the terms of the tenancy agreement if the tenancy agreement says that she can’t do this.

What I am saying is the police will say that the sun entered the building as a lawful visitor and not a trespasser which is why they will notget involved.

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