Trespassers, or ‘Squatters’ as they are commonly known as, can present a major problem for landowners as these individuals will often;
1. pose a security risk
2. obstruct the use of the land
3. leave the land in a poor state and condition.
In addition to this, the process of removing the trespassers generates an expense which is seldom recovered by the landowner because the identities of the trespassers are often unknown.
The problems experienced by land owners are often compounded as the Police are generally reluctant to assist when it comes to trespassers. Whilst the act of trespass can amount to a criminal offence, it also falls within the parameters of Civil Law. As a result, those dialling 101 will often hear the words “I’m sorry, we can’t assist. This is a civil matter. Speak to a solicitor”.
We frequently assist clients with the removal of trespassers from commercial property and rural land. Our most recent instruction involved the removal of seasoned trespassers from a large and key operational mining site. The swift action taken by us and the client meant that the trespassers were removed shortly after being discovered. This enabled the client to continue with its operations without disruption and the threat of injury and/or damage.
So, you’ve discovered Trespassers on your Property. What’s the first step?
If you become aware that trespassers have accessed your land and remain in occupation, the safest way to ensure that they vacate (if they will not leave under their own steam) is to issue an urgent possession claim for what’s known as a ‘Possession Order’.
When dealing with trespassers there are some additional procedural requirements that must be adhered to. This includes ensuring that at least 2 days notice of the hearing is given to the trespassers and that the claim is appropriately served. This will often involve the use of transparent envelopes and stakes.
How long will it take to get a Possession Order?
If the court procedure is followed promptly and accurately, an order can usually be obtained within 5-12 days of the proceedings being issued. However, it will largely depend on how busy the local county court is.
The Possession Order will usually require the trespassers to leave the land forthwith and the order must be served in a similar fashion to how the claim must be served. If the trespassers then fail to vacate the land following service of the Possession Order you may proceed to instruct bailiffs to deal with the removal of the trespassers from the land. If there is a risk of violence, the Police will usually attend on site.
The trespassers have gone. What should I do now?
A Possession Order has a limited lifespan and so when the Order expires, it would be necessary to repeat the process outlined above to deal with any new uninvited guests. As such, and it may sound obvious, but you should look to secure the site or property as soon as possible.
Large immovable objects such as boulders can often help. It may be beneficial to adequately secure the entrance to the site and explore the possibility of installing CCTV or some form of surveillance.
There are a number of prescribed procedural steps that must be satisfied to ensure the timely removal of trespassers. As such, it is advisable that you seek legal advice at an early stage to ensure that you get it right. If you get it wrong, it can result in wasted expense and delay.
If you require assistance with the removal of trespassers, please contact Ben Jones on 01872 265100 for a preliminary discussion. Ben specialises in contentious property matters and frequently deals with actions against trespassers.