Saturday, 1 September 2012
Criminalising squatting is the thin end of the wedge.
From today the squatting of residential property will become a criminal offence. This piece of legislation seems to have just snuck under the radar and into the statute books with little or no real opposition but don't underestimate it's potential impact. In the first place of course, the change in law will enable readers of The Mail to go on holiday safe in the knowledge that there is less chance of coming home to find that their house has been squatted by Romanian Transgender Zombies or whatever. For squatters, summary eviction by the cops and a criminal charge will be added to all of the usual uncertainties. Owners of large property portfolios will be able to leave homes standing empty with greater confidence and even under the old legislation three quarters of a million properties stood unoccupied at any one time. But most importantly this is a real fundamental change to English property law. Historically owning the title to property conferred certain rights but those without such title also had rights and this is at the heart of why trespass was never a criminal offence. This could turn out to be the signature legislation of the coalition.