Squatting is currently only a civil offence but as of September this year new legislation will make it a criminal offence to occupy someone’s Home/property without consent. The Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller had sought to introduce amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that would have meant squatting is not illegal if a property has been empty for 12 months or more and is not subject to a current planning application.
Homeless charity Crisis’s recently reported that 39 per cent of single homeless people have squatted and the charity campaigned against the proposals, saying: “Squatters already face a range of legal sanctions and, with homelessness on the rise, we would not want to see them faced with risking being criminalised simply for trying to put a roof over their head.”
The Landlord Syndicate, a network of companies providing support for landlords, welcomed the news. Syndicate member Paul Shamplina who has fought for this law and is also founder of Landlord Action said: “Squatting cases have been on the rise for some time now, many by organised gangs whom have travelled thousands of miles to engage in squatting knowing they will be protected by the law. It was only when some high profile cases hit the headlines that people sat up and took notice of the growing injustice on homeowners.” Squatters will now face up to a £5,000 fine and a six month prison sentence if they take up residence in another person’s property.
“Enforcing a law does not mean that the activity of squatting will be eradicated, it just means there are tougher measures to deal with it which should prevent landlords and homeowners having to enter into lengthy and expensive legal battles” said Paul. “That means landlords still need to avoid void periods and ensure they invest in good preventative security measures.”
source: Alex Johnson-Independent research, Paul Shamplina-Landlord Syndicate