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Squatting is to become a criminal offence: do you think it should? POLL watch

  • View Poll Results: Should squatting become a criminal offence?
    Yes, with a custodial sentence
    48.96%
    Yes, with a fine or other punishment excluding a custodial sentence
    30.90%
    Only in certain circumstances - please state
    10.07%
    Not at all
    10.07%

    • Thread Starter
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    Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is to scrap existing ‘soft touch’ laws and make occupying a private property illegally a criminal offence.

    It will mean the police can enter a property by force and evict the occupants within days.

    Offenders will face prosecution and even a jail term if found guilty. In Scotland, where squatting is already illegal, they can be jailed for 21 days.

    Thousands of properties every year are ‘taken hostage’ by gangs of aggressive squatters, but homeowners and landlords complain they are powerless to take them back.

    Astonishingly, property owners can even face criminal prosecution themselves simply for forcing their way back into their own homes.

    Landlords’ groups and MPs have long called for a change to the practically non-existent squatting laws. A senior Whitehall source said making the changes was now an ‘urgent priority’, as Mr Clarke seeks to end the nightmare of homeowners being locked out of their own properties.



    The source said: ‘Ken has had enough of seeing homeowners battle to get squatters out.

    ‘He is determined to use the full force of the law to save people from the nightmare of having to fight to get their houses back. The days of squatters’ rights will be over.’

    It is thought there may be up to 10,000 active squatters in England and Wales, who often move between properties with impunity.

    As the law stands, staying in the house is not a criminal offence but a breach of the civil law, meaning a court order is required to remove them. Getting one can cost thousands of pounds, and take months.

    Even if squatters break in, it is notoriously difficult to prove an offence has been committed.

    By making squatting a crime, as it is in Scotland, ministers hope removals will become swift and effective. North of the border, the problem is much less prevalent.

    It could also allow the police to track ‘lifestyle squatters’ who hop between houses.

    Often the squatters move in to take advantage of multi-million pound properties which are empty while being renovated.

    A Mail investigation earlier this month found an ‘estate agency for squatters’ listing empty properties across London.

    The Advisory Service for Squatters operates out of the third floor of a building in East London and advertises the details of scores of empty homes.

    It also publishes the Squatters Handbook which details how to take advantage of the law and even how to take apart a lock.

    The dozens of websites for squatters advise using Section 6 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, which was designed to protect tenants from aggressive and unscrupulous landlords but has become a ‘squatters’ charter’.
    Pugh

    Squatters can also obtain legal aid to help them fight their battles, while homeowners can be crippled by legal costs.

    Often squatters post notices on the door warning of the action they will take if anyone tries to get in. Astonishingly, if they manage to resist attempts to evict them for ten years, they can claim ownership.

    Legal figures suggest squatting court cases are becoming more commonplace, but most cases never even make it to court, because the intruders move on at the 11th hour.

    Businesswoman Dy Maurice, 51, lost her savings of £50,000 in a 15-month battle to evict a squatter from her home in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

    She rented out the mews property after moving abroad to run a beauty salon, but it was sub-let by the tenant to a squatter who refused to pay rent.

    Her life then fell apart as she tried to evict him. She finally won a court order in August 2008 to have the man evicted, but he refused and it took another month to send in bailiffs.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...#ixzz1GxUR9hiW


    Personally, I've been hoping for this for years. I just hope the sentence is considerably longer than that handed down by our Scottish friends.

    What do you think? Should squatting become a criminal offence?
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    Oh thank god. I though they were about to outlaw 'actual' squatting, in which case I would be done for. The bogs in the nightclubs up here are rank rotten.
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    it's about damn time
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    My uncle was a squatter for 8 years and didn't do anyone any harm but personally I never found it that acceptable. It is a theft of property and I do think it should be taken more seriously - although a custodial sentence might be going a bit far.

    Some of the properties he squatted were properties about to be knocked down by the council for a ring road and a disused community centre, they caused more of an inconvenience in that they delayed planning and building work rather than costing anyone huge amounts of money.

    I don't think that sort of lifestyle is good for people though, I certainly think it should be a punishable offence, getting told to 'jog on' doesn't really cut it.
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    Squatters don't have any rights in Scotland, as it should be all over the UK.
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    Political Ambassador
    Not your property get the feck out
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    16
    Breaking into someone's house and stealing the TV is illegal. So how can breaking into someone's house and living there be legal?
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    I leave my car on the drive and don't use it for 6 months.

    I come back to it and someone's been driving it illegally without paying for anything.

    Think this says it all really.
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    will it include gypsies who choose to take over school fields?
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    (Original post by Lack of Creativity)
    I leave my car on the drive and don't use it for 6 months.

    I come back to it and someone's been driving it illegally without paying for anything.

    Think this says it all really.
    this would make me rage
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    When I saw the title, I immediately though it meant the exercise :facepalm2:
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    (Original post by morecambebay)
    will it include gypsies who choose to take over school fields?
    Haha. Good memories.
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    Has hell frozen over? Kenneth "Soft touch" Clarke on the side of the victims for a change???? :lolwut:
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    If the person who owns the house wants squatters out, then of course they should be forced out by law.
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    It's always baffled me how it's not illegal already. You want to live in a house, you pay for it.
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    I first started thinking about this whilst studying Tort Law at uni this semester. I do think they have far too much protection and the law is too lenient with them. I remember back in college some of the kids being like 'Oh yeah lets have a squat party and lets find a really amazing property worth lots of money to do it in' These people are not homeless at all they just have more fun using an empty property which isn't theirs and holding massive parties which end up with the owner having to pay huge amounts of money in the clean up or if they stay, the legal process to get them removed.
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    I haven't got a problem with squatting. We live in a country with houses standing empty while others live in hostels or on the streets. I'd much rather someone make use of the space than have it go to waste, especially when the reason it's empty is because someone has more than property. The unequal distribution of housing is a big problem, and squatting does something to rectify the situation.
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    watch 'unmade beds' s'goood
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    I don't think squatting is such a bad thing. I think there are too many people squatting irresponsibly.

    The websites about uk squatting I've read all basically say "don't break anything, and once you get there, phone up and ask to start paying for the heating and electricity".
    That seems fair enough to me. I don't think it's right for people to take advantage of the system, but I also don't see the problem in a homeless person staying in a disused building if he isn't damaging it or leeching off the owners. :/
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    Normally I would advocate prison, but there's no point. Our prisons are too overcrowded and most of the squatters are illegal immigrants anyway. A deportation order, or a heavy fine in compensation, should be enough.
 
 
 
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