The Government announced its intention to bring in legislation for 2012 which would make “occupying a private property illegally” a criminal offence.
Squatters have, until now, been able to stay in a property, providing there is access, in accordance with Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977
, later amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
, due to the issue of access to properties being a civil matter, between the property owner and the occupant, rather than a criminal matter that the Police would get involved in.
The legislation changes trespass from being a civil offence to that of a criminal offence, meaning the Police will be able to enter a property, by force, potentially evicting occupants within days.
The disapproval of the current process, for the most part, was in relation to the time taken to evict squatters and has also been influenced by the fact that squatters potentially had the time, and many the inclination, to cause criminal damage to the property.
The flip side of course is that the Police are already stretched and extremely reluctant to become involved in what they see as civil matters. If the Police are not in a position to enforce this new law then it is not likely to have much effect on squatters and their “rights”.
What effect do you think this legislation will have on both squatters and property owners?
Criminalising squatters could have a major impact on those tenants who are struggling to pay rent with unscrupulous landlords in a position to accuse their tenants of being squatters just for being behind on the rent. This could worsen the housing crisis.
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