Squatter Evictions

If squatting is a criminal offence

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If squatting is a criminal offence

It's true that simply being on another person's property without their permission is not usually a criminal offence. That goes way back to Roman times and the concept that land cannot be 'stolen' as such. There were circumstances when squatting could be considered a criminal act if, for instance, the squatters committed a crime to gain entry.

The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 created a new arrestable offence of ‘squatting in a residential property', punishable by up to 51 weeks in prison or a fine of up to £5,000. Property owners with squatters are now able to contact the police immediately, but a police officer will still have to make an on the spot judgment about whether a criminal offence has indeed been committed.

In the case of squatting in a vacant property, all the squatter needs to do is maintain they have committed no criminal offence or have a tenancy agreement and the police will immediately back off, maintaining that it's a civil matter. If the squatters are well known 'persistent offenders', the police will want to do a risk assessment and if protestors are at the property to support the squatters, the eviction will be delayed.

However, it is true that in most of the recent cases these new powers have been enthusiastically pursued by the police, especially in squatting ‘hot spots’, so it would appear that landlords and homeowners are indeed better protected.

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