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Squatting On The Rise

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/young-urban-professional-seeks-home-ndash-vacant-premises-will-do-2058849.html

The number of people living in squats in England and Wales has risen by 25 per cent in the last seven years, according to new figures. But contrary to popular belief, greater numbers of squatters are now professional, middle class and upwardly mobile.

The Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS), a voluntary group, believes there are as many as 22,000 people living in squats, up from 15,000 seven years ago. In 1995, estimates put the number at 9,500. The figures are believed to be a conservative estimate.

Experts say the increase is fuelled by an increase in rents and house prices, a decline in public housing stock and tighter restrictions on mortgages, meaning there are fewer opportunities for people to secure homes. This, together with a greater number of vacant properties as a result of repossessions or buy-to-let landlords unable to rent properties, has resulted in more squatting opportunities.

Agencies dealing with squatters are reporting increases in the number of cases they handle. Will Kahn, senior adviser at Tenant Eviction UK, said: "We have seen a rise in the cases relating to squatters in the last year or so. I would say this increase is a result of the recession, because there are more empty houses. We're dealing with seven to eight squatter cases a month. A couple of years ago, we were doing two a month, so it is a significant increase."

Squatters were typically associated with parts of London or other big cities. But many solicitors are now seeing a shift towards smaller towns and cities throughout England: "You do see it happening in towns such as Leicester, Peterborough, Norwich, and we've had a few cases in Bedford," said Gail Sykes from Buckles Solicitors. "We are seeing a different kind of squatter. You used to have a lot of travellers moving in and camping on land. We now tend to be dealing with people breaking into or obtaining access to clients' vacant properties. We've seen that change within the last 18 months."

Many organisations said they were also seeing a variety of people squatting – from young professionals who want to save money to art students seeking space for their art work.

A spokesman for ASS said: "More people are thinking about squatting because of the recession. We get calls from a very wide spectrum of people. You certainly can't tell what type of person is going to end up squatting. Art students, for example, need more space than they could get by renting."

Definitive figures on numbers of squatters are hard to come by, as police and many local authorities do not keep records.

Squatting is lawful in England and Wales if entry to an empty property is not forced resulting in criminal damage. Owners of the squatted building are forced to take civil action through the courts to remove the unwanted occupants. In Scotland it is illegal to squat in a property. If someone is found to have illegally entered a property, the police will take action.

Experts say the new generation of squatters have a greater understanding of the law and how it can protect them, helped in part by sophisticated legal advice available on the internet.

Ben Gower for UK Bailiff Company said squatters had become legally savvy. He said one person would walk up to a property, break a window and walk away. Then another would come along and enter the property through that window and put up a "squatters' rights" notice. "Previously squatters were people who didn't have money and found empty premises," Mr Gower said. "Now they break in and others put up a section 6 notice saying 'we are squatting on these premises'."

At the squatting movement's height 40 years ago, many occupied buildings as a badge of their political activism. Nowadays, squatters are more likely to be driven by financial necessity rather than social concern.

In 1994, the then Home Secretary Michael Howard, said: "There can be no excuse for seizing someone else's property for however short a time." Measures in the Criminal Justice Bill were then designed to deal a blow to squatters.

The coalition government has promised to act promptly now that squatter numbers are increasing. They have promised to give greater powers to councils and landowners to better deal with squatters. The communities minister, Bob Neill, said he is working on proposals to create a new criminal offence of intentional trespass. He has also said: "We are also committed to dealing with the problems caused by empty properties and are exploring a range of measures to help local communities bring empty homes into use."

A spokesman for the Advisory Service for Squatters, said: "If land and property is not being used, it can be beneficial for the neighbours and community that it is used and doesn't become an eyesore. The Criminal Justice Act only served to make squatters more insecure. The more secure they are, the more energy they are going to put into the community. I don't think the Government will criminalise squatting in any simplistic way."

Case Studies

The Squatter: 'Squatting could be seen as a gap-year activity'

Carys Jones, 21, has been squatting in a disused warehouse in Nottingham for six months with between 10 and 20 others. She works as a secretary for the NHS and is taking a degree in English literature. She started squatting after becoming homeless. Her squat faces the daily threat of eviction.

"There are lots of pros to living in a squat, beyond the financial ones. Squats hold community events, give out meals and actually improve difficult neighbourhoods. You have to consider the ethics of squatting. Our building is a Grade II-listed Victorian warehouse, owned by a private landlord, which has been neglected for years. I would never advocate going into someone's home. Squatters aren't unemployed heroin addicts. Lots of my housemates work. There are cons, however: people break windows and scream 'dirty squatters!' In 10 years time, I probably won't be squatting. I'm working and studying, so I'll probably be settling down. Squatting has been a really good learning experience. I feel a lot more confident and I can tackle anything. It could be a gap-year activity."

The Victims of Squatting: 'These were not people who were poor or homeless'

Professor Phil Reed, 47, and Dr Lisa Osborne, 46, bought a home in Brighton in 1995. They lived there until 2001. Moving to Swansea because of work commitments in 2003, they used the property to store their personal belongings. In 2008, not having been to the house for some time, the couple received an electricity bill for £2,026.67.

"When I drove past our property in January 2009, to our horror we noticed a light was on, a scooter was parked on the property and our car, left in the drive, was missing. I immediately telephoned the police. After speaking to the people inside, the police said they had admitted the property was broken into in the last couple of years and they had been living there since. They told us they were willing to pay rent. The police warned us not to disturb them and promptly left. I also saw a satellite dish had been fixed to the chimney. These were not people who were poor or homeless. This has left us extremely distressed. We know who the people are – they [now] live just round the corner. It makes us sick to think of what they did and has left us with no faith in the police."

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Yep!

I squatted during the last bust (93-94). In fact it was the nicest flat I ever lived in. The block was marketed as sophisticated urban living back in '89, and there was a waiting list. By '92 the place was a free for all. Oh those days...........

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There are 4 empty properties near me, very nice they are too. 3 bed semi's with gardens, due for demolition I think they were (but now there is no funding to replace them), similar houses have been demolished and replaced with smaller 'eco houses', but they aren't selling (I wonder why!). They would need new plumbing as the boilers and piping have been removed by local entrepreneurs (and I know a local plumber out of work).

I had to visit the local council offices earlier to provide proof of income in order to claim housing benefit, and I overheard a guy applying for emergency accommodation (relationship breakdown had caused his homelessness), after having to sleep rough the previous night (and it was cold windy and raining here last night), he looked pale as a sheet, like an albino! Got me thinking, I could seize those properties and rent them out to people on housing benefit, and use the housing benefit to improve the properties. That young homeless guy mightn't only be able to claim enough for a 1 bed property, but rather use that to improve the housing, than let the property fall down and leave him homeless!

Anybody had any experience of squatting? Know much of the law? Can you in any way seize a building?

Anyhow, I would have offered him my sofa, but he had an offer of a b&b, I directed him to an online squatting guide, and told him the location of the empty properties. Hopefully the system can mop him up. But it is a damn shame to see housing go to waste when people are sleeping rough and living in overcrowded housing!

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There are 4 empty properties near me, very nice they are too. 3 bed semi's with gardens, due for demolition I think they were (but now there is no funding to replace them), similar houses have been demolished and replaced with smaller 'eco houses', but they aren't selling (I wonder why!). They would need new plumbing as the boilers and piping have been removed by local entrepreneurs (and I know a local plumber out of work).

I had to visit the local council offices earlier to provide proof of income in order to claim housing benefit, and I overheard a guy applying for emergency accommodation (relationship breakdown had caused his homelessness), after having to sleep rough the previous night (and it was cold windy and raining here last night), he looked pale as a sheet, like an albino! Got me thinking, I could seize those properties and rent them out to people on housing benefit, and use the housing benefit to improve the properties. That young homeless guy mightn't only be able to claim enough for a 1 bed property, but rather use that to improve the housing, than let the property fall down and leave him homeless!

Anybody had any experience of squatting? Know much of the law? Can you in any way seize a building?

Anyhow, I would have offered him my sofa, but he had an offer of a b&b, I directed him to an online squatting guide, and told him the location of the empty properties. Hopefully the system can mop him up. But it is a damn shame to see housing go to waste when people are sleeping rough and living in overcrowded housing!

The law is wrong if it supports owners who can afford to leave housing empty, above the rights of those with nothing.

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Yep!

I squatted during the last bust (93-94). In fact it was the nicest flat I ever lived in. The block was marketed as sophisticated urban living back in '89, and there was a waiting list. By '92 the place was a free for all. Oh those days...........

Many people I know did this!

I hope that doesn't make me "scum"? :huh:

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I hope that doesn't make me "scum"?

You do look a bit feral in that picture- and that wand might be a weapon so the jury's out at present (but they might show up on TV soon apparently.)

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This issue REALLY annoys me. The council prevent people from buying land and building their own homes, but are unable (or unwilling) to house them either.

Loads of empty homes + loads of homeless people = Squats. QED.

This is merely the consequence of a rigged market.

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Just thinking about the Dale Farm situation.....surely renters would be better living in nice mobile homes on privately owned land rather than renting a house.

If we assume the rent is £400 a month less for the illegal plot than the "official" house with another £100 a month saved on bills you could save up £6k a year and the legal process to stop you living there would take years by which time you could probably buy outright.

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Hmm is it possible to start a BTL empire by "squatting" in multiple properties?

*Locate empty properties.

*Change the locks, and put up a sign in the window showing the squatters declaration rights.

*Advertise in the local paper rooms to rent cheaply like £50/week.

*Hang on to the properties for 12 years.

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I like the way the article states that squatting these days is non-political.

It reminds me of the way the recent riots were widely described as non-political.

It's as if there is no reason for anyone to do any of this. They are not waving banners and demanding some kind of revolution, therefore it must be non-political and by implication totally unnecessary.

The younger generation are breaking the law, they can't seem to get on in life by playing by the rules because the cards are so heavily stacked against them. It doesn't matter if you are "feral scum" or a trendy art student, it appears to be becoming obvious to a growing number of the youth that they have no stake in society, so why should they have respect for its rules?

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Proper squatters have a sort voluntary code of conduct:

  • Only empty properties (not ones where the owner has gone on holiday for a few weeks) are squatted in.
  • Every effort is made not to annoy the neighbours or to become known to the police etc.
  • Every effort is made to improve or maintain the building and the area.
  • As soon as they are asked, they move on to a new squat.

Any squatters I have ever met have been unfailingly kind, friendly, industrious and fiercely independent with very little evidence of them receiving state benefits.

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it appears to be becoming obvious to a growing number of the youth that they have no stake in society, so why should they have respect for its rules?

A quote I heard from someone talking about the riots stuck in my mind-

'If the youth are excluded from the village they will burn it down to feel it's warmth'

There seems to be more distilled wisdom in this one line than can be mustered by a room full of 'experts'.

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Proper squatters have a sort voluntary code of conduct:

  • Only empty properties (not ones where the owner has gone on holiday for a few weeks) are squatted in.
  • Every effort is made not to annoy the neighbours or to become known to the police etc.
  • Every effort is made to improve or maintain the building and the area.
  • As soon as they are asked, they move on to a new squat.

Any squatters I have ever met have been unfailingly kind, friendly, industrious and fiercely independent with very little evidence of them receiving state benefits.

I'm pretty sure they weren't the best tennants, but I think some of the might have been receiving benefits!

Never mind! This was an age long gone, or was it? :blink:

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The younger generation are breaking the law, they can't seem to get on in life by playing by the rules because the cards are so heavily stacked against them. It doesn't matter if you are "feral scum" or a trendy art student, it appears to be becoming obvious to a growing number of the youth that they have no stake in society, so why should they have respect for its rules?

As part of that younger generation I've bent a few rules, but I don't break laws or squat. However that's only because I don't have the need to do so.

My view on law is that I have my own opinion about what is right or wrong and no law or social concious is going to decide this for me. But this opinion is mainly down to the fact I have a very full understanding of how much my generation has been screwed. And I say this despite personally having a reasonably comfortable living though definitely not middle class I'm doing a lot better than minimum wage.

If I was on minimum wage or JSA in the UK I would be a lot more desperate, if I was in that position and also didn't have the option to stay with parents I'd 100% become a squatter it's not even a question though I'd try to find someone online to co-squat with as I'd be worried about my personal safety if squatting alone.

As I get free accomodation and food (though the food is not restaurants and steaks!) I'm on the equivalent of probably almost 17 pounds per hour. I also live in a low cost country (China) where many things are 2-3 times cheaper with the exception of electronics which is about the same.

I don't work many hours a week so a lot of people would probably consider my job part-time but it feels very much like a full-time wage packet I receive each month. I've made the decision of working less hours so I can spend my free time trying to setup a business in future.

If I didn't have this reasonably comfortable job then I would probably live at home with my parents in the UK and use my free time to do online marketing. I wouldn't want to work 40 hours/ week on the same hourly salary as I have now as I consider my free time more important than money.

Most people who work full-time jobs are so tired by the time they come home in the evening they neither have the strength nor motivation to work on their own things, same goes for weekends which is understandably what people would like to use for leisure time. I consider my lifestyle to be alternative to the standard job and whilst not as good as being a successful businessman it's still a significant improvement on how most of my generation are living right now ;)

Edited by Saberu

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Havent Squatted but what I saw on TV I think a BBC program, is basically, squatters id a house, someone then walks down the street, kicks the door in (but could be a window busted open) so access to the property is now deemed open by the law, that person then dissappears back to their other squat and police dont waste their time trying to identify someone they never saw. Catch 22 here.

So with an open property everyone else moves in and sets up a legal squat. Proving the squatters had knowledge of the person who made the property open is also nigh on impossible unless some effort is put into it.

Ultimately unless homeowners put CCTV up in their property to record all attempts to gain access or some other deterent, ways to alert the police to catch the person and get the property secure double quick, there isnt much you can do other than go through teh courts. However the police will act if violence is threatened which is why most squatters cant be forcibly evicted through non court channels, the police will come down on the side of the squatters like a ton of bricks.

When you know this, every house is potentially at risk of being squatted in as soon as its left empty whilst someone goes off to the shops or to work for example.

Of course you could make your house like a fortress but then if you have a fire, the fire brigade cant break into your house to save you! ;)

F*ck it. I give up.

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Yes its a time issue whats wrong with that, or whats wrong with the above as its an observational statement.

I dont understand the context in which you made your comment, so can you explain the context? :)

What sort of pathetic system do we live under that allows the bit I quoted (that you originally posted) to happen?

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Nobody forces you to buy a property, why not shift the responsibility on the Landlord and rent, its their problem then, just like people dont have to buy any product, people vote everyday when they spend their money on a product, or where they choose to place their money.

Advertising and marketing is the art of selling the idea someone needs to part with their money in return for X, X can be a product or bank. :)

Ah, but I can be renting and someone could come in and squat whilst I'm at the shops or at work (apparently).

I do not want that to happen!

In any case, what you're suggesting is that there is nothing wrong with taking possession of ANYTHING if someone has left it alone for a second.

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"every house is potentially at risk of being squatted in as soon as its left empty whilst someone goes off to the shops or to work for example."

Utter lie. One that is continually repeated to scare people to hating squatters. ("Oh my God. That could be my house" No it can't: your house isn't empty)

If a property isn't empty (and has a "displaced residnetial occupier") then it's a crime not to leave once asked. IE The police should immediately throw them out of the proterty and arrest them and no need to go to court.

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/HomeAndCommunity/WhereYouLive/Derelictbuildingsandsquatters/DG_10022452

Equally the big story in the new recently was equally rubbish (the one with the pregnant woman about to move in to new home to find it occupied by squatters) They were "protected intending occupiers" and again the police should have arrested everyone in the house. I suppose i subtlety here is if they were squatting before the new owners completed there may be problems. But what idiot buys a house without determining if it's loaded up with squatters first?!

Another problem is that maybe the polcie don't know the law so don't know when they can throw people out. But then changing the law won't be any solution, you need to explain to our wonderful police what the law actually is first.

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  • 245 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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