New laws scrap ‘squatters rights’

by Property118.com News Team

10:03 AM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

New laws scrap ‘squatters rights’

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New laws scrap ‘squatters rights’

Ban Squatters RightsWhat 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?

UPDATE

New information added >>> HERE



Comments

10:45 AM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

it's a bad day for human rights in the UK tomorrow. This new anti-squatter legislation makes me feel ashamed to be a British Citizen, I an very angry.

Mark Alexander

13:58 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

I take it from your comments Dan that you have never invested your life savings into a property and then found out that somebody else is occupying it rent free without your permission?

Do you own a car? How would you feel if I just started driving it around and refused to give it back to you? What would you do about it? Would you just say, oh well, it's your human rights, get on with it mate or would you call the Police and have me arrested? If the Police said "sorry mate, he's allowed to do that" how would you feel? Might you be so desperate that you might even resort to crime to get me out of your car? If so, and you were arrested and imprisoned for it whilst I was still driving your car around, might you feel that was injustice? Many property owners have found themselves in this position - what about their human rights?

I don' really have much of a problem with people sharing your opinion, I just think opinions like yours are very naive. What I do have a problem with is the ridiculous government policies that are destined to increase homelessness. This criminalisation of squatting is justice, the changes in the benefits system which will undoubtedly increase homelessness, due to removing incentives to the private rented sector to provide housing to benefits claimants, are, in my opinion, ill conceived to say the least .

15:00 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

Human rights is total bs. If you haven't paid to live there then you shouldn't be there. Finally we have got something right.

16:03 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

So tonight if police take action there will be 20000 homeless people.
It is worth a shot for all these squatters to be down the council tomorrow morning stating they are homeless and to house them.
Would this put them ahead of a Romanian gypsy and her 5 kids; I doubt it.
who should recive precendence, who is in more NEED.
Surely the gypsy can return from whence she came!? leaving the homeless squatter next on the list.
It will be an interesting 48 hrs.
You can't overnight have 20000 homeless people.
Perhaps open up some army camps.
This what occurred when 20000 Ugandan Asians were given British Citizenship and arrived en-masse.
Be interesting how all these councils work out who qualifies as whom is in the greatest .
It seems a very subjective decision depending on who is making it.
Do ALL councils sing from the same hymn sheet.
I think some govt direction is required here as otherwise different councils will view things differently and that cannot be right.
It should be a national policy as to who has the greater NEED.

Ben Reeve-Lewis

17:09 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

I posted elsewhere on P118 my broader views on squatting which dont need repeating here (As I dont want the ear bashing haha) apart from to point out that squatting is already a criminal offence and the machinery is there, through an interim possession order (IPO) to get rid of them quite quickly.

What is being lost by landlords in their understandable enthusiasm for this new law is that it is actually an attack on people's right to gather on land and protest. It is no accident that just 2 days ago Eric Pickles....Hardy to Shapps' Laurel, called for a war on protestors http://is.gd/jAKk33

Why am I not suprised?. Althgough its with almost indecent haste that the true reason from bringing in this law is thrown into the ring. The furniture being moved out before the corpse is dead.

On this point Dan is correct, it is a bad day for human rights. Of course as Paul Barratt said in answer to my other post on this landlords have their own interests to protect. I completely understand that but try to look beyond that single focus for a bit and think about what it means to society as a whole. You may want to protest about something yourselves one day. Not all protestors are scruffy anarchists and not all causes are loony leftie.

18:10 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

PRESS RELEASE

Commercial property owners beware – squatters are looking for a new home

Cluttons, leading international property consultants and chartered surveyors, has called
for further clarification in the law and has warned the commercial property market not to be caught off guard.

From 1 September 2012, squatting will become an illegal offence in residential property: a long overdue move that has been welcomed by many. With changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishments of Offenders Act 2012, squatting in residential property could carry a sentence of up to a year in jail or a £5,000 fine.

Cluttons is concerned that this legislation is too narrow, as it only applies to residential buildings which have been “designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live” and commercial properties are still very much at threat.

There is also concern that this previous civil issue will not be prioritised in criminal courts, and without the serious threat of imprisonment or financial penalty, it will not be taken seriously.

Julian Briant, head of residential consultancy division, Cluttons, commented: “Owners of empty commercial buildings need to be particularly careful as squatters start to search around for a new place to live. Sheds, office blocks, retail units and industrial buildings will all become fair game for squatters for whom the risk of ‘getting’ on to their particular residential property ladder is too great.

“The whole industry is pleased to see the government recognising squatting as the devastating problem it is, but we feel that the lack of clarification and transparency means the threat still very much remains, and we all need to be prepared for this.

“We will continue to recommend that commercial and residential owners use caretakers as
a cost-effective and efficient way of protecting empty sites, particularly those high profile properties which are widely known as being unoccupied. The real question for property owners: can you risk an empty property becoming occupied?”

George Oliver, vacant property manager, Gallowglass Security, stated: “Although we cannot accurately predict how effective this legislation will be, we believe that the
intrinsic culture of squatting will remain. We are preparing for an influx of squatters in commercial properties and recommend that others follow suit.”

Ben Reeve-Lewis

19:14 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

Spot on Paul. The other side of the coin indeed. And lets not forget another 20,000 court cases costing the tax paper how much exactly? If Squash are to be believed, anywhere up to £700 million+ which in one fell swoop wipes out the proposed £350 million savings on legal aid.

Do you remember the old Criminal Justice Act from the mid 1990s? One major focus of that legislation was to criminalise Raves. The cops ignored it as being logistically uselss

Ben Reeve-Lewis

21:15 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

And several charioties take your opinion Paul http://is.gd/GDMsvt

22:15 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

Yes I think I have said I agree with your correct assessment of sneaking a law in to bash legitimate protest.
Unfortunately the previous squatter legal process did not work adequately.
It took many months of concluding the legal process which from the extremely narrow perspective of a LL or homeowner was unsustainable.
Most LL and homeowners are only looking at their immediate parochial interests.
But yes the bigger picture you identify is so true.
Imagine a load of protesting LL occupying Grant Schapps offices or Mr Pickles!!!
Then LL would see that this law will come back to bite them big time.
what do you call a load of LL when they get together to protest.
I imagine a lot of them would be wearing balaclavas!
However this law will address the immediate concerns that squatters may be removed if the LL requests so/.
As previously discussed there maybe LL that do not request squatters to leaqve unless they wish to do so.
I presume police will only take action to remove squatters if a LL or owner requests as such.
Iw ould doubt therefore than many squatters would access obviously still ocupied properties and possibly woiuld even contact LL to ascertain whether it would be alright to squat in a property.
As we have mentioned there are a lot of LL out there that would prefer a vacant property occupied than not on the basis that properties tend to get worse when they are unoccupied.
I am sure there are and will be enlightened LL and property owners who can see the benefit of their vacant properties being occupied.
The situation now would be that all a LL would have to do is request they leave and if they don't the police would remove them.
Any sensible squatter wouild comply, to refuse would obviously cause them big problems

Ben Reeve-Lewis

23:19 PM, 31st August 2012
About 8 years ago

Oh yeah we posted elsewhere on this didnt we Paul? Not P118. The notion of caretaker squatters.

Has anybody noticed the big fly in the ointment here?

The Act refers to residential premises, not commercial. What do you think all those committed squatters groups will be looking at?

Government have started a war here trust me. I know people who know people.....if you get me

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