Making it an offence for the first time, and abolishing so-called ‘squatters rights’ are among a range of proposals to deal with the problem which would protect both home and business owners.
Making squatting an offence for the first time, sending persistent offenders to prison and abolishing so-called ‘squatters rights’ are among a range of proposals put forward as part of a new Government consultation.
Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said:
‘Far too many people have to endure the misery, expense and incredible hassle of removing squatters from their property. Hard working home and business owners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first.
‘Today’s consultation is a first step to achieving this. I am clear that the days of so-called ‘squatters’ rights’ must end and squatters who break the law receive a proper punishment.’
In the consultation “Options for dealing with squatting” the Government puts forward for discussion a number of plans to better protect home and business owners. These include:
- introducing a new criminal offence of squatting, which could result in a prison sentence for the most persistent offenders;
- abolishing so called ‘squatters’ rights’ which prevent legitimate occupiers of commercial property from using force to re-enter their properties if they have been occupied by squatters;
- expanding existing offences so that business property owners have the same level of protection as displaced homeowners; and
- working with the enforcement authorities to help ensure squatters are prosecuted for any other offences they commit - for example criminal damage, burglary or using electricity without permission.
The consultation paper asks for the public’s views on a range options for overhauling outdated laws, some of which date back to the 1970s.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:
‘I want to see an end to the misery that squatters cause and slam the door on their so-called ‘rights’, tipping the scales of justice in favour of the law-abiding homeowner once and for all.
‘We’ve already taken steps to crackdown on this menace, including publishing guidance for property owners to keep squatters out, and allocating £100million towards bringing empty homes back into use.
‘So there is no excuse for anyone to bring disruption and destruction to property owners’ lives by squatting, and that’s why it’s vital we look to take steps to tackle this problem.’
Stephen Cross, Head of Security at Ballymore Group said:
‘It is clear that squatters are costing my company many thousands of pounds because of direct damage to buildings, the problems caused to neighbours with loud ‘Squat’ parties, litter, rubbish and the amount of time it takes to sort things out - sometimes six to twelve weeks for a court order to be granted and finally enforced. This is almost inevitably expensive with court costs to be borne as well.
‘Proposals to finally tackle the problem of squatting and to extend rights to commercial property owners are therefore extremely welcome.’
Legislation will be brought before Parliament following the conclusion of the consultation, if deemed necessary.
Alongside plans to consult on squatting the Ministry of Justice also announced last month, as part of its proposals for reform of civil legal aid, plans to stop squatters getting legal aid to fight eviction. The Government is clear that legal aid should be targeted at those most in need and does not consider it sensible for the taxpayer to provide funding for individuals who have clearly entered and remained on the property or site as a trespasser.
Notes to editors
- Read the ‘Options for dealing with Squatters’ consultation paper
- It invites views of the general public and interested parties and includes the following options:
* Creating a new offence specifically targeted at trespassers who occupy other people’s buildings without permission, thereby criminalising the act of squatting.
* Amending section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 so that a squatter who refuses to leave non-residential property when requested to do so by the property owner would be guilty of an offence (it is already an offence for a squatter to refuse to leave residential property when required to do so by a displaced residential occupier or protected intending occupier of the property).
* Amending section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 so that the offence of using or threatening violence to secure entry to a property against the will of the people inside does not apply to wider range of property owners seeking to enter properties which have been occupied by squatters. (The offence already does not apply to displaced residential occupiers and protected intending occupiers).
* Working with the enforcement authorities to improve enforcement of existing offences commonly committed by squatters such as criminal damage or burglary.
* Do nothing, but continue with existing criminal and civil law mechanisms.
Communities and Local Government squatting guidance on Directgov
- For further information please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.