Squatting made a criminal offence in England and Wales
Starting tomorrow, squatting in residential buildings in England and Wales will become a criminal offence. Those found guilty will face up to six months in jail, or a £5,000 fine.
Previously, squatters were dealt with in the civil courts, where trespass and actual or intended occupation of the building had to be proven before an eviction could occur.
While current squatters will not be exempt from the new law, ex-tenants with a contract, expired or otherwise, will be protected.
Catherine Brogan of Squatters’ Action for Secure Housing (SQUASH) is concerned about the repercussions of the change. She said: “I think the issue is a lot of people might find they’re pushed towards squatting in more and more unsuitable buildings. So that could cause a lot more risks.”
Leslie Morely of homeless charity Crisis told the BBC’s Today programme: “This law is going to do absolutely nothing to address the underlying reasons why people squat in the first instance.” A report written by Kesia Reeve for the charity, argues that 40% of single homeless people squat. It says: “Squatting is a homelessness and welfare issue, not a criminal justice issue.”
However, the Justice Secretary, Crispin Blunt, countered that the government was spending £400 million a year on the homeless, and £160 million on bringing 10,000 empty properties back into use. He said: “This measure is about justice and fairness for home owners, who shouldn’t have their homes stolen by squatters.”