No doubt most of you will have heard about squatters taking over Colonel Gaddafi’s son’s £11 million mansion in London. Apparently the group calling themselves Topple The Tyrants claim they took over the house because they “didn’t trust the British government to properly seize Gaddafi’s corrupt assets”.
Whatever your opinion on the above is and on squatters in general most clients that we assist with these matters continue to be taken aback when we inform them that squatting is not a criminal offence. It really isn’t….
Section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 states that it is an arrestable offence for a squatter to fail to leave a residential property when asked to do so by a residential home-owner who wishes to occupy the property. There is therefore a criminal element which allows the police to assist and to enter and arrest anyone suspected of criminal damage and theft.
We have all heard the myth of “squatter’s rights” which is in fact no such thing. Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 makes it an offence to use violence or threats of violence to gain access to premises when there is someone in the premises who is opposed to such entry. However, this does not apply to an occupier who does not have a right to be there and was introduced to protect for example, tenants from unscrupulous landlords.
Whilst the legislation will be welcome there does not seem to be any indication of when it will be introduced. Whether you believe that this is something that should be legislated on when we are in the middle of a financial crisis or whether people should take responsibility for their own properties is of course a debate for another day.