Sep 022012
 

From yesterday it is a criminal offense to squat in a residential property, hence my house. Good, and about time!

This is a complicated matter, and there are claims from lawyers and people representing squatters that the change to the law is unnecessary because there were already remedies. I said why this was false in my post of nearly a year ago The law on squatting in my house in England. That post also linked to the response I sent to the Government’s 2011 “Squatting Consultation”.

Here are comments from 3 points of view: real home owners; empty house owners; squatters.

Real home owners

To me, and (from what I read) lots of other home owners, the main impact of my home being invaded would be “invasion of privacy” and “loss or damage to life’s souvenirs“, not “invasion of property“, although obviously the latter is also important.

This is something that (some) lawyers and squatters appear not to grasp. It wasn’t sufficient that a home owner could get a  court order for the squatters to leave, and if they didn’t it became a criminal offense. That all took days. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the main “invasion of privacy” could be done in the first hour or so, and of course further damage to souvenirs (photographic slides, negatives, etc) could be done vindictively after the court order. It is then too late. The effects could not be reversed.

The new law says “don’t even bother; you may not even get a night’s sleep, and you may end up in prison”. Hopefully that will deter them, which is the only way of preventing irreversible intrusion or damage.

Empty home owners

I limited my response to “my main dwelling”. I didn’t (and don’t) particularly care what the law is for other properties, because I am not personally affected.

However, in other posts, for example Simple example of how The Intergenerational Foundation is wrong about housing, I have pointed out that in all the debates about housing for young people, much of the problem comes down to “not enough suitable houses”. So I wonder whether it is true that so many houses are empty, and why?

I suspect that it is true that there are a lot of empty houses that people who want/need homes could happily use. I sympathise with their frustration, and can understand why they think they need to take action such as squatting. I don’t have answers, but I wonder if there are too many financial incentives for leaving houses unoccupied, and not enough financial motivation to sell or let such houses. I would support changes to improve matters.

Squatters

Squatters come in all flavours. Some probably squat simply because the alternative is to be on the streets. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are likely to suffer from the new law, at least until better alternatives are found.

But some appear to do it as a protest, while others appear to think of it as a life-style choice. I think those reasons are past their “use-by date”, and after a few years those reasons will be seen as archaic.

I strongly criticise those people, supporting squatting and opposed to the change to the law, who ignore the point that the most serious aspect of squatting problem is “invasion of privacy“, rather than just “invasion of property”. This only applies to “real homes”, (like mine), but there are over 14 millions of these in the country; why shouldn’t we all have the protection of law? I believe that if somehow those people had acknowledged this problem they may have avoided presenting themselves as the enemies of real home owners.

Further reading

Here is an article that gets it wrong, and the comments after it make it clear that many lawyers think so too:

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