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Squatting in a residential building in England and Wales becomes a criminal offence on Saturday, meaning squatters would face jail or a fine.

 

Ministers said it would offer better protection for homeowners and "slam shut the door on squatters once and for all".

 

The maximum penalty will be six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.

 

But campaigners warned the new law could criminalise vulnerable people and lead to an increase in rough sleeping.

 

Currently squatting is treated as a civil matter and homeowners - including councils and housing associations - have to go to a civil court to prove the squatters have trespassed before they can be evicted.

 

'Squatters' rights'

From 1 September it will be a criminal matter, and a homeowner can simply complain to the police who, if satisfied that the claim is genuine, can take action and arrest the squatters.

 

The law also protects owners of vacant residential properties such as landlords, local authorities and second-home owners.

 

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: "For too long, hardworking people have faced long legal battles to get their homes back from squatters, and repair bills reaching into the thousands when they finally leave.

 

"No longer will there be so-called 'squatters' rights'. Instead, from next week, 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."

 

Mr Shapps later tweeted: "Squatting has been illegal in Scotland since 1865. From tomorrow it will be a criminal offence in England too."

 

Homeowner Hugh Whittle told the BBC it was a "horrifying" experience when he returned from a stay in hospital to find squatters had moved into his residence in London.

 

"Just going through the three or four months it took to get them out was a cost in stress. And cost in money as well, of course, lost rent. And the property did actually become worse in its condition which meant that we had to pay builders more."

 

But the new law was criticised by some.

 

Homelessness push

Catherine Brogan, from the campaign group Squatters' Action for Secure Housing, told the BBC: "What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

 

However, Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said homelessness was at the lowest level for 28 years and the government was spending £400m a year on homelessness and £164m on bringing about 10,000 empty homes back into use.

 

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This measure is about justice and fairness for homeowners who shouldn't have their homes stolen by squatters."

 

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, said legal provisions were already in place for removing squatters from people's homes and the new offence could leave vulnerable people facing jail or a fine they cannot pay.

 

She said: "It will do nothing to address the underlying reasons why vulnerable people squat in the first place - their homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

 

"Ultimately the government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them."

 

Chief Constable Phil Gormley, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on uniformed operations, welcomed the move saying police could "now act immediately and remove squatters directly from properties".

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19429936

 

Personally I fully support this move. I've read too many horror stories of people returning from holiday or hospital to find their homes taken over by squatters and facing lengthy (and costly) legal battles to get their homes back, then when they finally get back in the place is trashed.

Of course whilst it's technically illegal if they force/break their way into the house, squatters can easily just change the locks and then claim "Door was unlocked" or "Window was open" and it's very difficult to prove one way or another.

 

So, any other thoughts/opinions on this?

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It will get them housed quicker now..

 

Break into someones home whilst they are away......

Get arrested very quickly....

Can't pay the fine as homeless and broke..

6 months jail (out after 3)

Local council has duty of care, and has to home them........

 

excellent way of getting to the top of the housing list.......

 

 

Sorry for being so cynical, but it has only happened since the MP found her house overrun last summer.........


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About time realy!

And yes right to be cynical.

Homeless often get arrested for crimes and then get help via probation to be housed, get grants etc.

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Perhaps if governments did something about All the Empty homes sitting around the UK,there wouldnt be the need for Squatting in the 1st place.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/housing-network/editors-blog/2011/dec/09/empty-homes-strategy-england

 

http://www.emptyhomes.com/statistics-2/

 

 

There are approximate 75,000 Empty housing association doing nothing on the BBC news early on..

 

Private LL

88,000 long term privately owned empty homes in England

 

http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns/why_we_campaign/building_more_homes/empty_homes


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not sure the owners of the empty houses would agree, they have the right to keep them empty if they choose, dont they!

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not sure the owners of the empty houses would agree, they have the right to keep them empty if they choose, dont they!

 

Well then it's there own bloody faulty in the 1st place keeping property's empty for Long periods and not properly secured...


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not sure the owners of the empty houses would agree, they have the right to keep them empty if they choose, dont they!

 

legally yes, but morally its questionable..

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Well then it's there own bloody faulty in the 1st place keeping property's empty for Long periods and not properly secured...

 

In many cases they are properly secured. Many Squatters seem to simply break in/force entry or con a local locksmith into getting them in, then change the locks and say it wasn't secured since it's virtually impossible to prove one way or the other.

 

Besides, someone has every right to purchase a second piece of property and, if they so choose, keep it empty. It's their property, owned privately, and they are paying for it via mortgage/council tax.

 

 

legally yes, but morally its questionable..

 

I don't see anything morally questionable with it at all.

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In many cases they are properly secured. Many Squatters seem to simply break in/force entry or con a local locksmith into getting them in, then change the locks and say it wasn't secured since it's virtually impossible to prove one way or the other.

 

Besides, someone has every right to purchase a second piece of property and, if they so choose, keep it empty. It's their property, owned privately, and they are paying for it via mortgage/council tax.

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

Council and housing association properties are the biggest problem in the UK and it just getting worse,Both Labour and Conservatives have failed to do anything about it....

Edited by 45002

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How can you defend the indefensable.

If they took over the proprty and did it up and made improvements to make it better, you may have a case, but they dont they wreck it!!!

Councils are on the case and regularly contact owners of empty ptoperties that are in their area to help put them back into repair or persuade them to disppose of.

If you went away on an extended break for say six months and found it occupied when you came back, doubt you would say well let them stay it was my fault for going away!

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Really

 

Still there own faulty for keeping property's Empty for Long periods at a time....

 

I'm not sure how you can say "It's their own fault" when someone illegally enters their home and takes up residence without the owners permission, runs up utility bills, damages property and causes home owners months of stress and the financial cost of court action to have them removed.

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not sure the owners of the empty houses would agree, they have the right to keep them empty if they choose, dont they!

 

In my opinion the right of an individual to a roof over their head vastly outweigh's the right of someone to own property purely as an asset, and to keep it empty.


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What right!!

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I think this is a long overdue piece of legislation, there is no way someone should be allowed to squat in a house just because it is empty. Private owners have historically had a dreadful job trying trying to get illegal squatters out of their homes and it has cost them 1,000's to do it. However if a council or social housing proiperty is left empty for 6 months or more there may be a case for sqatting at least on a short term basis.


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In my opinion the right of an individual to a roof over their head vastly outweigh's the right of someone to own property purely as an asset, and to keep it empty.

 

im sure if it was your property that squatters were wrecking and refusing to leave you might have a different view on this.


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im sure if it was your property that squatters were wrecking and refusing to leave you might have a different view on this.

 

And I am sure, if I was a corrupt Politician being protested against by the Citizenry, I would have a different view to my current one on the democratic right to protest.... And if my aunty had testicles, she would be my uncle, if if if.


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im all for giving homeless shelter and such - and my post wasnt a personal attack on you. i have seen enough trashed houses due to squatters - smashed through walls and everything. Its not fair on the owners one bit


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im all for giving homeless shelter and such - and my post wasnt a personal attack on you. i have seen enough trashed houses due to squatters - smashed through walls and everything. Its not fair on the owners one bit

 

I think and agree the Police should have powers to immediately remove "squatters" from a personally owned home, where the owners are only off on holiday etc, its empty properties that have been empty long term I dont think should be protected.

 

Certain investors buy up flats etc, especially new build, but keep them intentionally empty, when I was living in Leeds, iirc, this was a major problem - the housing list was in the thousands, and yet there were several thousand empty flats, almost all recent new build - foreign investors especially were buying them, but did not want the inconvenience of smelly tenants dirting the place, for their business and portfolio, an empty flat would retain its value nicely - these are people wealthy enough to be buying outright as an investment in the bricks, not people with mortgages.

 

I would at the very least instigate a special empty property council tax - double or triple normal C tax.

 

And despite everything, they have passed laws to criminalise people who are often going to be vulnerable, yet they havent touched the business of Irish pretend Travellers driving onto private property but requiring expensive, long to get court orders to remove!


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It wom't stop squatters, it just makes squatting a criminal offence with legal consequences.

 

Personally I would not give squatters free accom courtesy of Her Majesty, but 96 hrs community service, renovating Council-owned derelict properties for the homeless. The non-squatting homeless should also be able to participate without affecting any benefits. When renovated, give them first refusal for a place. Rent equiv to single person LHA.

Thus they get an address.

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I think and agree the Police should have powers to immediately remove "squatters" from a personally owned home, where the owners are only off on holiday etc, its empty properties that have been empty long term I dont think should be protected.

 

!

 

I agree if some one been on Holiday for two weeks and comes back to find squatters,then they deserve to be fined or lock up.

 

The main problem is with council and housing association property left empty and run down for years,both Tory and Labour have failed to do anything about this large problem in the UK.

 

It's there only fault in the 1st place places property like this end up with squatters and squatting will carry on until the shortage of affordable homes in the UK is address by government's.

 

As for privately owned property's left empty and run down for years at a time I repeat

 

Well then it's there own bloody faulty in the 1st place keeping property's empty for Long periods and not properly secured...

 

 

I do hope when the police use there limited resources on squatters,they find time to crack down on the increase in illegal eviction by private landlords in the UK :-x

Edited by 45002

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Having recently rewatched Channel 4's recent 2 Despatches episodes on Rogue Landlords, its just incredible that valuable parliamentary time has been devoted to squatting, whilst rogue landlords have been completely ignored.

 

But then, we have Councils like Hackney who claim its "ok to put people in rooms full of fungus, because we aren't putting families in, only single people" :jaw:


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