Squatters - The new law
Squatting became a criminal offence on 1 September 2012 and already housing providers have been making use of this new remedy.
London & Quadrant were able to take advantage of the new law when police arrested three people who were found to be squatting in one of their flats. The housing association was already taking civil action using the existing law but the action by the police was much quicker in removing the squatters. One of the squatters in this case received a prison sentence of 12 weeks.
CityWest Homes also used the new regime when it discovered squatters in one of its properties. CityWest contacted the police on becoming aware of the squatter and the police were able to act that same day by arresting and removing him.
So there is a new and quick way to get help to remove squatters. But it is important to remember that if the police do not arrest the squatter, the landlord must use the civil route by issuing proceedings in the County Court to obtain a possession order and then instruct a bailiff. Whether or not this new law will assist you will depend on your local police and how keen they are to intervene in what they may consider to be a civil dispute about property ownership.
What this means for social landlords
Now is a good time to dig out your policy on unlawful occupation and review it to check it encompasses the new law. Are your teams aware of the new law and what they should do on discovering squatters in your property? If you need any assistance with reviewing your policies or training your staff, please do not hesitate to contact me.