Eviction specialist backs moves to make squatting illegal

Instead police will be able to force entry and arrest anyone who has occupied a property without the consent of its owners.

In Scotland squatting is already illegal and offenders can be jailed for up to 21 days.

Stephen Parry, Commercial Director at Landlord Assist said: "We are delighted to hear that the Government is taking a firm stance on squatting by deeming it a criminal offence.

"Our firm has been lobbying hard to get central Government to acknowledge that squatting should be an illegal activity and that the process to deal with squatters is too protracted and incredibly stressful for landlords."

To assist homeowners in protecting their properties, Landlord Assist is also urging the Government to take further action by removing websites which provide an advisory service and details of empty properties for squatters.

Graham Kinnear, Managing Director at Landlord Assist said: "We would like to see those websites that offer lists of vacant properties and advice for squatters relating to Section 6 (1) of the Criminal Law Act to be removed from the internet as they simply provide an open invitation to squatters.

"The Government should take a responsible view by stopping sites that encourage this form of criminality. Such a move would create support from the leading landlord groups and landowners throughout the country.

"As the law currently stands, staying in someone else’s home is not a criminal offence but a breach of civil law, meaning a court order is required to remove them. This process can be expensive and time consuming and a very harrowing experience for the property owner."

At present, squatters may legally enter an empty property provided they do not cause damage when gaining access. Existing laws protect squatters by preventing a homeowner from forcing their way back into a property.

Squatters may also claim possession of a home if they have occupied it continuously for more than 10 years.

It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 instances of squatting each year in the UK. In Scotland where it is already a crime the issue is far less widespread.

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