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A squatter is a person who lives in a property without the owner's permission. Squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, and carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment, a £5,000 fine, or both. A brief summary of this offence is below:

1. The offence only applies to residential properties (which includes temporary or moveable structures).

2. The squatter must have entered the building as a trespasser (i.e. without the owner's permission); they must know (or ought to have known) that they are trespassing; and they must live or intend to live in the property for any period of time.

3. The squatting offence does not apply to legitimate tenants who fall behind with payments or refuse to leave at the end of their tenancy agreement (even if they leave and re-enter the building). See Q46 and Q47 for further information regarding these situations.

If you find squatters in your home or any other residential building, you should report the matter to your local police force.

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Answers in this FAQ section are provided by the 'Ask the Police' website. Produced by the Police National Legal Database (PNLD) team, 'Ask the Police' is an official police site approved by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). All FAQ answers are © PNLD.