14 June 2012 by

Squatters – a change in the law

Following detailed consideration and consultation the Government finally has law on the statute books which makes the squatting of residential property illegal. The move follows several high profile cases of residential squatting (notably the Gaddafi mansion in Hampstead) and cases in which home owners (particularly where the property was empty and undergoing refurbishment) were rendered powerless to remove trespassers without undertaking lengthy and expensive legal process.

Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 says this:

(1) 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.”

And the punishment for committing the offence:

(5) A person convicted of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (or both).”

In essence, therefore, it will be a criminal offence to squat residential property. I say “will be” because we are still waiting for a commencement date to bring section 144 into force, in other words the date it goes “live.” At the time of writing we do not have a date; the Government will be working with local authorities and the National Homelessness Advice Service to raise awareness and ensure that home owners and squatters are aware of the changes.

But what of the practical impact of the change in law? Commercial (as opposed to residential) property has always been the target of squatting and it is perhaps only logical to consider that the incidence of squatting in business property will increase with the change in law.

Should commercial premises be the target of squatting, the court process does offer a choice of routes (depending upon the exact circumstances) to obtaining an order for possession and in cases where the premises are the subject of mass squatting the property owner is usually able to employ the services of High Court Enforcement officers (“Sheriffs” or “Bailiffs”) to secure a quick and efficient eviction.

Essentially, tackled in the correct way, the legal process of recovering possession does not necessarily entail a long, drawn out expensive exercise.

For more information on recovery of land occupied by squatters or on disputes in relation to business and residential property, please contact David Wise on 020 7288 4787.

24 May 2012 by Sonal Ghelani

A Knotty Problem

Japanese Knotweed was introduced to the UK in the mid-nineteenth century as an ornamental plant. Looks, however, can be deceptive as Japanese Knotweed has an invasive root system and the strong growth can damage foundations, buildings, flood defences, drains, roads, paving, retaining walls and architectural sites.

13 June 2012 by

Cohabiting and Intestacy

It’s well known that the law can take a while to catch up with the real world, and the intestacy rules are a very good example of this; despite the rise in cohabitation over marriage, unmarried couples have no automatic entitlement to any part of each other’s estates, even if they live together or have had children together.

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