Squatting; a criminal offence

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Squatting in homes and all other residential buildings is a criminal offence from 1st September 2012. 

Under section 144 of The Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 a person commits an offence if:-

a) the Person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a trespasser,

b) the person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and

c) the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period

The offence is also committed by a person who holds over after the end of a lease or licence even if the person leaves and re enters the building.

For the purposes of the Act a ‘building’ includes any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure), and a building is ‘residential’ if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live.

The offence is punishable by a maximum term of up to 6 months imprisonment, a maximum fine of £5,000.00, or both.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said “For too long squatters have had the Justice System on the run and have caused home owners untold misery in eviction, repair and cleaning costs. Not any more. Hard working home owners 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 idea behind the new offence is to protect home owners and legitimate tenants who have been excluded from their homes as well as people who own residential buildings they do not live in such as landlords, local authorities or second home owners.

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