However, the new offence will not criminalise squatting in commercial and other non-residential buildings.
At present, squatters are allowed to enter an empty property if it is left unsecured. But it becomes illegal and a civil offence if they refuse to leave a home that is already or due to be occupied.
Graham Kinnear, Managing Director at Landlord Assist, is fully supportive of the new measures to outlaw squatting and is pleased that amendments to the law could finally protect the rights of homeowners and landlords.
He says: “Squatting can cause a huge amount of distress and worry for landlords. Not only can it take a long time to gain repossession of the property but any damage incurred can lead to landlords leaving their property empty for a longer period of time whilst repair work takes place.
“Likewise, going through the civil courts can lead to expensive legal costs for landlords at a time when they could be finding genuine tenants. Criminalising the activity will enable landlords to reclaim their properties faster and alleviate the need to engage in lengthy proceedings to evict squatters.”
Stephen Parry, Commercial Director at Landlord Assist says: “Criminalising squatting will hopefully act as a deterrent to any would-be squatters. At the moment, the worst thing facing squatters is that they may be evicted after a few days in the property. However, if they are faced with the threat of immediate arrest far fewer people will be tempted to take that risk.
“If landlords have empty properties on their hands this will hopefully put their minds at ease and focus their attentions on finding the right tenants.”
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