8:59 AM, 3rd November 2011, About 10 years ago 1
Squatters who move into homes will commit a criminal offence under proposals announced by the government.
Following consultation, the government will introduce the new offence of entering a residential building as a trespasser.
Squatters, occupiers of land or a building without consent of the owner, will commit the offence if:
The new law will only apply to houses, houses in multiple occupation and blocks of flats.
Commercial and industrial buildings are excluded because owners do not seem to have the same concerns about squatters as homeowners.
Several recent cases in London involving high-profile owners or properties provoked the call to consider upgrading the law.
Although civil and criminal remedies are available, the police are reluctant to become involved, leaving owners facing expensive and lengthy court proceedings to regain their property.
Also, in some London cases, squatters have moved in when homeowners have left to visit friends or go on holiday, particularly in and around Barking, Essex.
Property law expert Stuart Wortley, of legal firm Pinsent Masons, said: “Given that relatively few homeowners and residential landlords have both the resources and access to the requisite expertise, the Government’s proposals are to be welcomed.
“Although limited to residential property, providing the police with powers of arrest for a new criminal offence of squatting would give a very effective means of recovering possession for all owners of residential property from squatters. Further thought should be given to extending the offence to all property.”
The new law will also exclude students, workers and other protesters who occupy non-residential buildings.
The new law will be introduced as an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is currently going through Parliament and is expected to reach the statute books in the spring of 2012.
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