The UK's approach to 'squatters' rights' (known in legal circles as adverse possession) has been ruled to be lawful according to a ruling by the European Court.
Under UK law, anyone who is allowed unopposed occupation of a piece of land for more than twelve years (10 years for registered land if appropriate procedures are followed) can acquire legal title to the land. Although numerous safeguards were introduced in the Land Registration Act 2002, which introduced a system of notices before the title could be transferred, this continues to be the case. The decision by the European Court in a case involving 56 acres of grazing land in Oxfordshire was that it would breach the human rights of the original owners if the title were to pass without any compensation being paid. The land in question, which had planning permission attached, was estimated to be worth £10m and, somewhat surprisingly, on appeal the Court ruled that passing title to the land, without compensation being paid, did not breach the human rights of the owners.
Giving notices to owners of land should reduce the frequency with which ownership by adverse possession is claimed. However, there is still much unregistered land and so it can be difficult to establish exactly who owns a particular portion of land in order to give the required notices.