Squatting In Residential Property Becomes Criminal Offence In England And Wales

Guidelines To Tackle Issue Introduced By Government


New legislation which has made squatting in residential buildings in England and Wales a criminal offence for the first time has been introduced by the Government.

Following a consultation on how to tackle the issue of squatting last year, ministers decided to criminalise the action.

The offence will be punishable by a maximum prison term of six months, a fine of £5,000 or both. Housing minister Grant Shapps said the Government was “tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner” by making the move.

Danny Revitt, an expert in property litigation at Irwin Mitchell, said the new law is a major development in a hugely divisive issue.

He explained: “This is clearly a very emotive and political topic, particularly factoring in the high numbers of homeless people and the similarly high numbers of abandoned residential properties that are currently sitting empty.

“However, the introduction of this new law will be welcomed by residential property owners. There has been much concern expressed in the past about the fact that the police have not been prepared to act when properties have been unlawfully occupied by persons who have also damaged the property following a forced entry.

“In the past, such actions have resulted in residential property owners having to incur expense in instructing solicitors and paying court fees to obtain and enforce  a court order for possession. It remains to be seen how the police will exercise these new powers in practice.”