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These are not sitting tenants. Squatters occupy the land or property without specific authority. And pay no rent. Unfortunately, unless there is evidence of forcible entry, the ejection of squatters is not straightforward – indeed it can be a lengthy legal process.

‘Squatters Rights’ is a general term applying to the acquisition of title to an area of land by an undisputed period of occupation. This has to spread back unchallenged, over at least 12 years, and if this possibility ever arises, you will need to take careful legal advice on the position. Any offer, or payment of rent – in money or in kind – could be taken as admission of the existence of tenancy of the land in question which would make it unlikely that squatters rights could be established.

That said, new arrangements to protect the interests of registered owners are included in the Land Registration Act 2002. While a squatter may be able to register a claim after ten years' adverse possession the registered proprietor will be notified of the application and free to object. The application will then be rejected unless the squatter can meet one of three limited criteria. However, if the proprietor does not take steps to evict the squatter, or regularise the position within two years, any squatters still in adverse could qualify to be registered as owner.

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