It’s everyone’s dream to become a millionaire property tycoon without having to put in the time, effort, energy, and capital normally needed to make your fortune. Starting from zero, with the odds stacked against you and an unimaginably poor credit rating, there’s almost no chance of you making it big in today’s market.
The key word here is almost. We’ve noted before that there are tens of thousands of residential properties in the UK which have remained unoccupied for at least a decade. They’re just sitting there going to waste. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could just claim one of them as your own and start renting it out?
You can. It’s not even a secret, and the government even provides handy guidelines on how to claim adverse possession of a property and make it your own. A quick Google search also turned up several charlatans selling access to conferences giving you practical advice on exactly what you need to do.
We’re going to tell you for free. And we’re going to tell you how to do it fast.
Timing is important
If you clicked on the previous link, you’ll have read the relevant rule already, “You, or a succession of squatters, have occupied the property continuously for 10 years (12 years if it’s not registered with HM Land Registry).”
The important detail here is the phrase, “or a succession of squatters.” After all, you don’t want to spend the next decade acquiring the first building block of your property empire. Ideally, you’ll know of somewhere which is already an established squat. Check your local newspaper archives for squatters who have been making trouble for their neighbours, Check court reports which mention that the defendant is squatting and get that address. The more concrete instances you can find that the property has been occupied by a ‘succession of squatters’ the better. If you can establish that it’s been used as a squat for ten years, you’re good to move on to the next stage.
Check it’s in decent nick
Another proviso is that you or your predecessors, ‘acted as owners of the property.’ What does this mean? The guidelines don’t say explicitly, but at a minimum, we’d guess it means keeping the property in good repair, and fixing problems as if it were your own home. See if you can find evidence of roof repairs, or redecoration. Have they been treating it like their own home?
Remove the current tenants
Great. After an afternoon of research, you’ve found a property which is suitable for you to take over. The only problem is that there are people already living there. Although this is necessary to fulfil the, “succession of squatters” proviso, their time is over. You need them out – by any means necessary. If you have a reasonable amount of money to hand this step will be easier. You can offer to buy them out of the squat. You can give them an all expenses paid trip to Disneyland. After all, you stand to make a huge profit from this, so splashing your largesse in the form of £50 notes shouldn’t bother you too much. If you don’t have that kind of cash, there are less ethical ways of moving someone out.
Install yourself as the current tenant
As soon as the building is empty, you need to get in there yourself and spend at least one night. You’re also going to want to change the locks, and board up the windows. You can still claim possession if there are other people squatting in the building, but you’re going to want them out at some stage – so it may as well be now.
After securing the building, get paperwork sent there in your name. Take out a credit card. Anything.
Fill out the form
By now you should have newspaper clippings or other evidence that the property has been occupied by squatters for 10 or more years, that you are physically in the property, and that ‘your predecessors’ have been treating the place as if they own it. These are all details you’ll need to fill in on this form, and this statement.
Note that although it asks for contact details of the current owner, you don’t need to supply them. However, you should already know their last address, and you should make certain that they can’t be reached there. If the property has been abandoned because the current owner is in a care home, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that they’ve either been moved or died since. This works in your favour as now you need to…
If you’ve filled out the forms correctly, then the owner has 65 days in which to object. This is going to a hair-raising time. You’ll be hoping that the registered owner won’t even receive the letter, and if you’ve chosen a property whose owner is in long term care, and who you know has switched care homes, the chances are that they won’t. You also need to chill out and consider that they’ve abandoned a property for more than ten years, and are probably not on top of their game.
In that two month period, you also need to guard the property against other squatters, including perhaps the former tenants. We’re not going to advise on how to do this, but throwing more money at the problem may help.
Advertise for tenants and find a new property
Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a house. Get it mortgaged or do whatever you need to do to bring it up to a lettable condition. Turn it into an HMO and advertise on gumtree. You own it outright and there are no restrictions other than those which usually apply to a homeowner. And it’s taken less than three months. In another month, the rents will start rolling in. Use them to pay off the occupants of the next squat you target.
Image credit: Punchup