As of Sept 1 squatting will be a criminal offense bet you thought it was already

Friday, August 31, 2012 | by Ed Mead

From midnight tonight, 31 August, squatting will become a criminal offense. For many this will come as a surprise because they thought it already was. Effectively the old rules stated that so long as it appeared there was no forced entry whoever had decided to help themselves to the property could stay until the owners availed themselves of expensive and complicated civil court proceedings usually followed by an expensive clear up operation.


For many years I’ve wondered what on earth was going on and why no one sorted this seeming anomaly out. You may have liberal leaning tendencies that suggest that if an owner is stupid enough to leave a property empty then why shouldn’t someone else use it, and you’d be ignoring by doing so an owner’s right to own as much property as they like and to do what they like with it.


My experience of squatters is that they fall into two categories, neither the type you want to get acquainted with.


The first are the wreckers, often in both the party and physical property sense, who don’t give a toss about how they treat wherever they are and are simply out take what they can out of the property for as long as they can before running off when things catch up with them.


Second are the paralegal squatters who fancy themselves as wannabee lawyers conversant with all areas of this convoluted and frankly squatter biased legislation. They post notices on windows and doors warning everyone approaching that they know their rights and that if anyone tries to enter they’ll be infringing their human rights.


Both are canny and clever at targeting and entering properties and have until now had little to worry about other than exhausting all those with a legal Title to the property and then buggering off at the last minute.


A client of mine a few years ago, not the sort of guy you’d want to cross, found squatters in his house from my second category. He came within an ace of hiring a band of heavies, reversing up to the front door at 3 am, throwing them in the back of a padded van and disgorging them in the middle of a Cumbrian Moor.


Luckily it now appears such radical measures won’t be necessary and those seeking to occupy other people’s property will rightly be breaking a criminal law and will therefore think twice.