As the Housing Minister pledges to shut the door on the "anti-social, undesirable and unfair" practice forever, a fierce debate still rages between property owners and their uninvited house guests.

Jason Hunter, partner and head of property litigation comments:

"The word 'squatter' is generally used to describe someone who is trespassing on land that belongs to someone else. Trespassing means occupying land without the permission or authority of the owner, so it follows that it is not 'legal', but it is not always a criminal offence. However, when squatters have occupied a house that can be proved to be somebody's home, it can be a criminal offence for them not to leave when asked to do so.

Except in these cases - which are quite rare - squatters have the 'right' not to be evicted by force; attempting to do so would itself constitute a criminal offence. As a first recourse, simply asking the squatter to leave is usually worth trying. If the squatter refuses, the owner must seek a possession order from the court to evict them, though if the squatters leave a property, for example to pop out to the shops, the owner can turn the tables on them and nip in and change the locks themselves."

Read Jason Hunter comments on ‘Squatters' rights and wrongs’ in the Independent.

For help with any property litigation matter, then please contact Jason Hunter.