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Squatting Criminalisation Runs Into The Sand

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I'm no hippy but have always seen squatting as based on very sound principles. Until the recent law changes, you were not committing a criminal act by simply existing. So long as you committed no damage, you could *be* anywhere you chose. That seems a pretty good principle to me. The consequences of that principle in relation to housing have always seemed positive to me as well; a big disincentive against hoarding. Or rather, a positive side effect of hoarding homes; you still get to hoard but (if you've not secured the place) someone also gets a free home.

Anyway, the law changed a while back and made merely living in an abandoned house a crime in its own right. This appeared to undermine all the principles I describe. However, as a few cases have gone to court it appears to be not such an easy ride for the house-hoarders after all.

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2013/11/513607.html

Further, the judge stated that if the police want to prove a person is living in a squat, they would have to provide evidence based on:

1 Observation (ie evidence that the person was using the squat)

2 Forensics (ie examining food, clothing, letters in the squat to establish the person was linked to the squat)

3 Detailed interviews (eg neighbours confirming)

4 The normal requirements of residence (eg bills in the name of the person to that address)

This all seems entirely reasonable. And also expensive and unworkable for cops, who will effectively have to mount a major surveillance operation to prove a relatively minor “crime.” Further, any squatter with a brain would surely notice such a surveillance operation and take that as a warning. So we think it will actually be very hard to successfully prove someone “lives” in a squat. We may see that issue play out again in future court cases.

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Very interesting. Could mean a real headache, and complication, with the new laws, if other judges take similar views.

Noticed a couple of weeks after the changes in law came about, two young looking guys got jailed for squatting, which I thought was heavy in the circumstances. Perhaps police and other judges won't be able to act as quickly if that becomes widespread. Still feel bad about the guy who died last winter, on a really cold night, who police prevented from peacefully kipping in some park hut.

The existing laws were fine enough, but it seemed like police preferred to take the "it's a civil matter" option, making for some really distressing cases for home-owners. Predatory squatters taking over people's homes, getting access on the sly.

I'm all for principles that go well back in time 'seisin' / adverse possession... allowing people to claim unoccupied land/buildings and put them into productive use. With title being granted after many years passed without action from a superior owner.

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I'm no hippy but have always seen squatting as based on very sound principles. Until the recent law changes, you were not committing a criminal act by simply existing. So long as you committed no damage, you could *be* anywhere you chose. That seems a pretty good principle to me. The consequences of that principle in relation to housing have always seemed positive to me as well; a big disincentive against hoarding. Or rather, a positive side effect of hoarding homes; you still get to hoard but (if you've not secured the place) someone also gets a free home.

Anyway, the law changed a while back and made merely living in an abandoned house a crime in its own right. This appeared to undermine all the principles I describe. However, as a few cases have gone to court it appears to be not such an easy ride for the house-hoarders after all.

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2013/11/513607.html

And so it should be that way. Just imagine that there was a party at a squat, you went along and got arrested for squatting.

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I believe its not illegal to squat in empty commercial premises.

Now that is eyebrow raising interesting!

I actually had assumed that the laws relating to trespassing/squatting/etc on commercial property were harsher than they were, till recently, for residential property.

IF true, as you claim, then given TPTB priority of commerce (i.e monied interests) over the individual (i.e ordinary family)....I would have assumed that commercial property would have been included in the recent tightening of the law re: squatting. I wonder why/what rationale there was for leaving it out?

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Maybe some in the legal sector are wishing they still got instructions / fees ect on squatting cases, to process through the courts.

Now this new level of possible complexity.

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Now that is eyebrow raising interesting!

I actually had assumed that the laws relating to trespassing/squatting/etc on commercial property were harsher than they were, till recently, for residential property.

IF true, as you claim, then given TPTB priority of commerce (i.e monied interests) over the individual (i.e ordinary family)....I would have assumed that commercial property would have been included in the recent tightening of the law re: squatting. I wonder why/what rationale there was for leaving it out?

Although squatting a non-residential building or land isn’t in itself a crime, trespassers on non-residential property may be committing other crimes.

https://www.gov.uk/squatting-law

Given the number of empty shops/offices, if I was desperate I'd target those. Many have sinks/hot water/kitchen etc

However many now have 'paid guardians' in place

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https://www.gov.uk/squatting-law

Given the number of empty shops/offices, if I was desperate I'd target those. Many have sinks/hot water/kitchen etc

However many now have 'paid guardians' in place

And just what responsibilities do those, usually short term, property guardians have in respect of squatters?!

My understanding is that they are as much a way of bringing in some rental income rather than leave a place completely unoccupied and having to pay for security contracts to keep watch over them?

Say you have a medium size office block with a number of rooms being rented to guardians, would they even notice or care if one of the likely many unused/unlet 'rooms' suddenly started to be occupied by a bona fide squatter?

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And just what responsibilities do those, usually short term, property guardians have in respect of squatters?!

My understanding is that they are as much a way of bringing in some rental income rather than leave a place completely unoccupied and having to pay for security contracts to keep watch over them?

Say you have a medium size office block with a number of rooms being rented to guardians, would they even notice or care if one of the likely many unused/unlet 'rooms' suddenly started to be occupied by a bona fide squatter?

http://adhoc.eu/great-britain/property-guardian/guardian-scheme-requirements/

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I believe its not illegal to squat in empty commercial premises.

That Is true. The change to the law only applied to squatting in properties licences for residential use.

As it is, most squatting is done in commercial and industrial buildings anyway. Has always been that way. Second best was run down local authority housing.

Changing the law was just pandering to the Daily Mail - but I suspect not much has changed.

Edited by lastlaugh

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This is just a judge trying to overturn the will of Parliament and substitute his own opinion. Personally, I think people should attack squatters in their own homes with anything they have. If I were on a jury, I would not convict a homeowner for any level of violence against a squatter.

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Changing the law was just pandering to the Daily Mail - but I suspect not much has changed.

Yup. But as soon as residential squatting was criminalised there was a push to extend it to commercial buildings

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/antisquatting-law-must-cover-businesses-too-8282216.html

The problem with this is it would then make homelessness itself a criminal offence.

Sleeping on the streets is a crime (Vagrancy)

Taking shelter in abandoned residential property like these is now a crime.

Taking shelter in abandoned commercial property is the only non-crime left.

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Personally, I think people should attack squatters in their own homes with anything they have. If I were on a jury, I would not convict a homeowner for any level of violence against a squatter.

Which is exactly why residential property is almost never squatted.

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This is just a judge trying to overturn the will of Parliament and substitute his own opinion. Personally, I think people should attack squatters in their own homes with anything they have. If I were on a jury, I would not convict a homeowner for any level of violence against a squatter.

That depends on whether they were first asked nicely to leave, or not. IF a squatter dug their heels in then that is a different matter.....

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This is just a judge trying to overturn the will of Parliament and substitute his own opinion. Personally, I think people should attack squatters in their own homes with anything they have. If I were on a jury, I would not convict a homeowner for any level of violence against a squatter.

You're thinking of a different kind of activity than what most of us would define as legitimate squatting - i.e. making use of an unused house, not one temporarily empty.

That aside, no. The judge is just saying "if this is a criminal offence, then it requires the same burden of evidence and proof as any other criminal offence."

Edited by tomandlu

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You're thinking of a different kind of activity than what most of us would define as legitimate squatting - i.e. making use of an unused house, not one temporarily empty.

That aside, no. The judge is just saying "if this is a criminal offence, then it requires the same burden of evidence and proof as any other criminal offence."

+1

Criminalisation was a DM knee jerk reaction to a growing problem of ho moanerz going out to the shops or work and the Polish builders they had hired had moved in.

Edited by aSecureTenant

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You're thinking of a different kind of activity than what most of us would define as legitimate squatting - i.e. making use of an unused house, not one temporarily empty.

That aside, no. The judge is just saying "if this is a criminal offence, then it requires the same burden of evidence and proof as any other criminal offence."

The proof is: they are in someone else's home. No further proof is required.

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Let me add, when I say "any level of violence", I do include homicide. If you squat in someone's home, you are in my eyes an outlaw. If you get killed - you had it coming.

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Does that include properties that are bought with a BTL mortgage?

..in this position.... one would not normally seek out the Landlord and demand to see his Bank Statements.... :rolleyes:

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The proof is: they are in someone else's home. No further proof is required.

If it was someone's home then it ain't squatting!

The law only ever allowed entry and occupation of unoccupied and unsecured buildings.

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Let me add, when I say "any level of violence", I do include homicide. If you squat in someone's home, you are in my eyes an outlaw. If you get killed - you had it coming.

Oh dear. You are a waste of space.

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Buy to let is commercial property - so it's full steam ahead for not paying rent and claiming squatters rights.

Buy definition buy-to-let is commercail property: The term commercial property (also called investment or income property) refers to buildings or land intended to generate a profit, either from capital gain or rental income

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This is just a judge trying to overturn the will of Parliament and substitute his own opinion

Agreed, and the crucial issue here is the definition of "abandoned". The reason the anti-squatting legislation was passed was to have a way of dealing with situations in which the (sole) homes of normal people (including rented ones) were occupied while they were away on holiday, work etc. for a relatively short period. If the legitimate owner or occupier of the home is going to have to produce a gas bill in the name of the squatter in order to get them out, then the judge is overthrowing a sensible and democratically passed law.

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