07 March 2011

Freedom To Squat Under Attack

Her plight ensures your house price. Enjoy!
The Telegraph looks at "The middle class serial squatters exploiting the law", and comes up with a curious conclusion.

The article explains that,
"A ragtag bunch of up to 40 activists and undergraduates has exploited legal loopholes to live for free in a string of historic buildings in London.

Dressed in scavenged clothes and ripped vintage tweed jackets, the squatters have struck four times in the past six weeks.

They occupied a building in Bloomsbury Square belonging to a well-known art dealer before invading a £6m house owned by Guy Ritchie, the film director. Then they took over an empty pub near Oxford Street before moving on to another near Leicester Square.

But despite leaving a trail of damage running into thousands of pounds, they can move on to their next target because squatting is not illegal. "
Rather than explaining that this story is untypical of homelessness and of squatting; rather than explaining that the middle class brats were either amusing themselves or part of some establishment campaign to change the law, our intrepid journalist bring us quotes of MPs railing against the freedom to squat.
"Their case typifies the failings of the law. The Sunday Telegraph is campaigning to reform the law to make squatting a criminal offence.

A change is backed by MPs, including Mike Weatherley, Conservative MP for Hove, who said England and Wales should be brought into line with Scotland, where squatting has been a criminal offence since the 1860s.

"It is far too easy to legally squat," he said. "Squatters know they just get moved on without penalty and they are never stopped from doing it again."

Mr Weatherley is backed by other MPs including Caroline Dineage
[sic], Conservative MP for Gosport, and Nigel Adams, Conservative MP for Selby. "
Further into the article the journalists explain that squatting has increased during the recession partly as a rise in the number of empty homes. Why should there be any empty homes? As far as I can see the (genuine) squatters are doing a public service by putting to use an empty property. This should be encouraged.

The article is followed by another piece, deceiptfully titled, How squatters evade the law. This article purports to be a legal analysis of squatting but is full of loaded sentences simlar to its title and makes a mistake. It says,
"Another area of legislation which squatters can use to their benefit in England and Wales is the law on “adverse possession”, which can allow someone who has occupied a building for 10 years to claim ownership of it. "
That should be twelve (not ten) years according to section 15(1) of the Limitation Act 1980.

Addendum Squatting for beginners
See Nothing Gets My Blood Boiling Like Squatters particularly,
"Anonymous | 7 Mar 2011 3:20 pm

I know lots of people who live in squats and have been to several of them. Not one is in a property that was being occupied at the time it was taken. Cases like the Archway property are the exception rather than the rule, as it is counterproductive to squat in somebody's home.

This article is a piece of fearmongering aimed at getting middle class homeowners freaked out at the prospect of anarchists moving into their home - which isn't going to happen! What about people getting evicted from their homes by the banks? Why don't you do some useful journalism and write about the problems going on in modern Britain that have caused a massive housing shortage, countless unused empty homes and a general unaffordable market. Jobs are being cut, benefits lost and more people are squatting."

Update 20th March 2011. It looks like Grant Shapps wants to sully his reputation by ensuring that more properties fall into disuse and more people end up sleeping on the streets just to try and keep up property prices. See, Grant Shapps: why the Government will outlaw squatting 'once and for all'

Update 6th September 2011. A slap in the face for Grant Shapps' campaign to maintain property prices at the expense of homeless people, "Squatters could be good for us all, says judge in empty homes ruling", reports the Telegraph,
"Squatters are not criminals and could be good for society, a judge has ruled in ordering a London council to make public a list of empty homes in its area. "
about, Voyias v IC & London Borough of Camden (Freedom of Information Act 2000) [2011] UKFTT EA_2011_0007 (GRC) 2011.

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