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Squatters to be shown the door
Posted on 28 May 2012 in Press News
A crackdown on squatters has been hailed as a major step forward.
Penny Samworth, a partner in the Cirencester office of Lodders Solicitors, believes new powers which will turn squatting into a criminal offence will redress the balance of recent years.
“There are all sorts of reasons why a residential property may be empty for a period,” she noted.
“There may have been a death in the family, the occupants may be temporarily working abroad, they may even have gone on a long holiday, but all too often such properties are targeted by squatters, some of them in organised gangs.
However, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 recently received Royal Assent. Currently a civil matter, squatting in a residential building will be made a criminal offence from September 1.
Squatters will now face up to a £5,000 fine and a six month prison sentence if they take up residence in another person's property.
It will take effect where a person is in a residential building as a trespasser, having entered it as a trespasser, knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser; and is living in the building or intends to live there for a period.
Miss Samworth said: “Hopefully, it will act as a deterrent but landlords, where they can, still need to avoid long void periods and ensure they invest in security measures.”
She urged home owners to take legal advice where necessary.
The new regime will not apply to anyone “holding over” after the end of a lease.
And business will continue to find squatting an issue as the changes do not apply to commercial properties.