Squatters Occupy Man’s Home in London

Connan Gupta returned from a week’s vacation to find squatters occupying his home in Southeast London. According to Mr. Gupta, he had left the premises locked while it was being refurbished, only to return to a squatters rights notice posted on the window, the locks changed, and 15 jobless Italian students possessing the property. The squatters claim that the front door was open when they arrived at the house and were told by the neighbors that no one had lived there for 2 years. In the UK, squatting is apparently a civil rather than a criminal offense, and so Mr. Gupta has no recourse with the police. He must wait for an eviction hearing to reclaim his home. What I do not understand is how there is no criminal action that can be taken. Does burglary not apply?

3 comments

  1. Apparently if the squatters remain in the home for 12 years, it becomes theirs. I see this like adverse possession in US property law where as long as the adverse possessor acts like the owner, after a certain number of years, the property will be theirs. In this situation, there seems to be a great deal of disparity among the stories of the two sides. Mr. Gupta claims that he was away for a week and triple locked his doors, the squatters claim that they have been there two weeks, that the door was open when they got there, and that the neighbor said no one had lived there in two years. While these are big differences, in any case, I think that since the squatters have not lived in Mr. Gupta’s house for more than 12 years, the home will be returned to him. Mr. Gupta can apply for an Interim Possession Order in the meantime that will require the squatters to vacate the property within 24 hours or they will be committing a criminal offense. After many such cases like Mr. Gupta’s, England is starting to strengthen their laws against squatters. There is now a published guide on how to remove squatters from your home and what available actions the homeowner has against them to reduce the number of situations where a homeowner is left without their home.

  2. As an update, Mr. Gupta has reclaimed his home. Despite trashing the property, none of the squatters was arrested. Further, Mr. Gupta stated that the likelihood of prosecution was slim.

    With regards to English law, squatting is not a criminal offense. However, it is illegal to get into a property by breaking in or damaging the windows and doors of the property. Also, the damage to the windows and doors need only be minimal. Further, squatters could be arrested for using utilities without contacting the suppliers.

    As for removing squatters, the displaced residential occupier or a protected intending occupier could peacefully ask the squatters to leave. If that fails, the owner of the home could ask the police to move squatters out of their home immediately without having to obtain an eviction order from the courts. If the police do not evict the squatters, an interim possession order (IPO) makes it possible to regain possession. If the correct procedure is followed, an IPO can usually be obtained from the courts within a few days. The squatters must leave within 24 hours of service of the IPO, or they can be arrested and face prosecution.

  3. What is shocking about this is the imbalance of rights for the squatter versus those of the owner. Not only is squatting not a crime, it IS a crime for the owner to force entry into his own home and remove the squatters by force. Furthermore, the police have no power to enter the home and remove the squatters themselves. Apparently this is becoming a huge problem in England (as well as Wales and Northern Ireland who follow the same standard as England; in Scotland, squatting is a crime) where numerous internet sites post advice with respect to squatters rights and how to legally come into possession of a vacant home. Beyond the inconvenience homeowners are faced with, landlords lose a significant amount of money as the squatters are obviously not paying rent and the landlord is left on the hook for the utilities and taxes, plus he loses the ability to rent out his property. Clearly steps need to be taken beyong the enhance civil measures (the IPO as other have explained), but squatters still seem to have the advantage and the only true remedy would be to make squatting a criminal offense.

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