What are your thoughts on the new laws scrapping squatters rights and making squatting a criminal offence?
Squatting in residential property in England and Wales becomes a criminal offence on Saturday 1st September 2012. Under clause 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, the offence of squatting will be punishable by up to six months’ jail and fines up to £5,000 in England and Wales.
20,000 squatters in England and Wales now face eviction as Police prepare to enforce this change in the law which criminalises those occupying residential buildings without a valid tenancy.
Phil Gormley, chief constable of Norfolk who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on uniformed operations, said: “We can now act immediately and remove squatters directly from properties in line with the new legislation and ensure people’s homes are protected.”
Housing Minister Grant Shapps seems to disagree with the housing charities. He is quoted as saying “No longer will there be so-called ‘squatters rights’. Hard-working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first – this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting. We’re tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner and making the law crystal clear: entering a property with the intention of squatting will be a criminal offence. By making this change, we can slam shut the door on squatters once and for all.”
Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: “For too long, squatters have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs. Not any more.”
Mark Alexander, founder of Property118 warns that commercial landlords are not protected by the new laws and raises the question “given that the news laws only make it illegal to squat in residential properties does this mean that commercial landlords with empty properties are likely to bear the brunt of the fall out?”
Left wing Housing Charities have been quick to jump on the media bandwagon by claiming the news laws will increase homelessness. QUESTION – are squatters not technically homeless anyway?
Leslie Morley, Chief executive of housing charity Crisis made a very interesting point though when she said “”Ultimately the Government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them.”
Readers of Property118 will be very much aware of why the problems exist, will it get worse though with the proposed changes to the benefits system?
New information added >>> HERE