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Will U.K. Authorities Stand Up to Squatters?

It appears that a growing number of members of the U.K. parliament have finally had enough of the odd "squatting" situation in the United Kingdom and may take action. As I noted here back in October, squatting -- which occurs when people decide to occupy an empty property -- is merely a civil offense in the U.K., which leads to some bizarre and unnecessary challenges for property owners.

As a result, for example, when hotelier Connan Gupta moved out of his house in Camberwell for a week while it was being renovated, he returned to find 10 unwelcome Italian students who had moved in and changed the locks. Gupta learned that the police were powerless to help him because under existing U.K. law, squatters may legally enter an empty property if they do not cause damage when gaining access. To his dismay, Gupta was required to hire lawyers and begin a lengthy process of trying to evict the squatters. "It's as if the squatters have more rights than I do," he said at the time.

This may change soon, however. On April 4, an "early day motion" and petition calling for squatting to be criminalized will be presented at Downing Street, Rent Man reports (via Lawyers on Strike). The motion, which is being pushed by Brighton and Hove’s Mike Weatherley and about 20 other MPs, would permit police to enter the premises and arrest squatters who are occupying a property without the consent of its owner.

According to the Rent Man article, there are are more than 100,000 instances of squatting each year in the United Kingdom. Weatherly says the ease with which squatters can occupy a home, with very few consequences even if they are evicted, has led to at least one instance where "squatters in Brighton made a freedom of information request to see which council homes were empty" in order to target homes. Weatherly also points out that even the U.K.'s Ministry of Justice "itself has fallen victim to squatters, with one of its building being occupied twice by squatters in 2009."

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 30, 2011 at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)


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