Is evicting squatters hard work?

evicting squatters

New legislation implemented in September 2012 has made squatting in a residential building a criminal offence. Until this change in the law, the police were reluctant to act.

This left desperate homeowners with only one option when it came to evicting squatters – to secure a civil court order, which was a time-consuming, expensive and extremely stressful process. And whilst the wheels of the civil courts turned infuriatingly slowly, squatters were left at liberty to use (and often abuse) properties to their hearts’ content. Many people thought it unfair that the weight of the law was behind the squatter and not the homeowner.

The new legislation comes into force only when someone knowingly enters a residential building as a trespasser and lives there, or intends to live there. In order for the police to act, they must be able to demonstrate that the property has been taken over unlawfully. If the property was initially entered legally — for example, through a tenancy or rental agreement — and the original agreement has lapsed but the person remains, this does not fall under the new legislation. In such a case the matter will still be treated as a civil rather than a criminal matter.

The new legislation is good news for homeowners. We’ve all watched the news and seen horror stories of homeowners dealing with squatters barricaded in their homes as the police looked on, helpless to act because their actions were not deemed to be illegal. Now that squatting is recognised in law as a criminal offence, the police are able to enforce a system which is designed to protect the homeowners and punish those that break the law. Evicting squatters is now a far simpler process.

Under the new legislation, the maximum penalty for a convicted squatter is six months in prison or a hefty £5000 fine. This should serve as a significant deterrent to would-be serial squatters who previously could get away without punishment. Evicting squatters may now be an easier process than it was before the legislation, but it is still not hassle-free. The reasons why people turn to squatting should be considered – homelessness, whilst not the only reason driving people to squat, is an increasingly serious problem in this country and needs to be dealt with at a fundamental level.

However, the change in the law means that those who have worked hard to buy property will now have their homes protected and that has to be good news.



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