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Squatting and Possessory Title

Squatting is a term many will be familiar with. In legal terms this is known as adverse possession – the act of someone deliberately trespassing (entering land or property that they do not own and do not have permission to do so from the legal owner) with a view to taking over ownership.

Is squatting illegal?

Squatting in residential properties (note this is a separate matter to tenants who have stopped paying rent) is illegal whereas squatting in non-residential properties or land is not generally considered a crime unless damage is caused.

Long term squatting can be a defence to an action in trespass/for recovery of land and /or may lead to the “squatter” becoming the registered owner of the land, if an application is made to the Land Registry.

The starting point to ascertain if an application is to be made is the period over which there has been squatting and whether the title to the land squatted upon is not registered at the Land Registry – both affect the outcome.

To become the “owner” of the land squatted upon an application to the Land Registry must be made and it depends upon the strength of the adverse possession evidence and/or if there is an objection.

If there is an objecting from the paper title owner the Land Registry refer the dispute to its First-tier Tribunal.

In October 2003, the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force and different implications arise depending on the date of occupancy and whether the land is registered or unregistered. We will review your situation and provide the right advice.

If you need any help with this area of land law, please contact our specialist property team which is led by Aaron Marshall. We can help clients to find resolution in the most complex of cases. Our team specialise in dealing with land and property investigation, disputes and litigation. Contact Aaron on 01204 377600 or at

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