It is now a criminal offence to be a squatter in a residential building. On 1 September, the law was changed so that an offence is committed if a person does all of the following:
- enters a residential building as a trespasser;
- knows or ought to know that he is a trespasser and
- lives in the building or intends to live there for any period.
Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt, said “For too long squatters have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs. Not any more. Hard working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first – this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting.”
The offence will be punishable by a maximum prison term of 6 months, a maximum fine of £5,000, or both.
Previously the only option open to owners of residential property was to seek a civil court order to regain possession of their property, and this remains the remedy for owners of commercial property.