On the 2 September 2011 Judge Fiona Henderson ordered Camden City Council to comply with a freedom of information request made by a member of the Advisory Service for Squatters. Judge Henderson when making the order stated that it was in the public interest to release the information, adding that there was a strong public interest in bringing empty properties into use, that squatting not was itself a crime and there was not a direct link between squatting and crime.
The council has 28 days (29 September) to comply with the Information Tribunal.
In response Mr Grant Shapps the Housing Minister, said rather than trying to prevent the anti-social and unfair practice of squatting, this judge is instead insisting that Camden City Council publish a ‘squatter’s road map’ – which in other areas has led to the numbers of squats doubling. I think this is madness, really. It’s clearly opposite to the expressed direction of [Government] policy.”
The Government has a £100 million fund to help councils bring empty homes back into use. About 80,000 homes are vacant across the capital, many of them under local authority control. Mr Shapps said: “I also want to shut the door on so-called ‘squatter’s rights’ once and for all, and end the misery, expense and hassle that far too many people have had to endure for too long, which is why we are consulting on making squatting a criminal offence.”
We have at PainSmith noted that squatting appears to be on the increase where landlords and even tenants have gone away on holiday. Obtaining a possession order can take a few weeks and as such precautions should be taken which could include hiring a house sitter or even having a friend visit your home every so often. If however squatters do get in and they refuse to leave upon a reasonable request then proceedings should be initiated.
Reasonable force is only an option for a Protected Intending Occupier, that is a tenant under the Rent Act 1977 or Housing Act 1988 and Displaced Residential Occupiers that is homeowners who are being prevented from occupying the property by squatters. For anyone else, including landlords, force is simply not an option despite what you might read elsewhere!