Residential squatters to face criminal action

This month new law* has been passed that criminalises squatting in residential premises, a decision that has been widely welcomed by many property owners.

Prior to the introduction of the new law, anyone wishing to remove squatters from their property had to follow a lengthy, complex and often costly procedure through the civil courts., a process that some felt that, weighed in favour of squatters.

Linden Talbot of Sussex based law firm, stevensdrake, said: “The new law has dramatically changed the legal position of squatters and provides a straight forward and quick remedy for owners of residential property to remove squatters irrespective of whether their property is a permanent, temporary or moveable structure”.

Under the new law an offence is committed if a person:

  1. Enters a residential building as a trespasser, ie without the permission of the owner; and
  1. He knew or ought to have known that he was a trespasser; and
  1. He is living in the building or intends to live there for any period of time.

The new law applies to squatters who entered the property prior to as well as after 1 September 2012.

Linden added: “In terms of process, the property owner should now report the offence to the police.  If successfully prosecuted the squatter may be sentenced to a maximum term of 51 weeks’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.00”.

A final word of caution: the new law applies only to squatters and does not apply to someone who is holding over after the end of a lease/licence.

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*On 1 September 2012 section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force.

Reproduction of this press release is permitted if stevensdrake is quoted as the source and when appropriate www.stevensdrake.com is included