Defend our Rights – Squatting law update as of May 2012
‘This law is unjust. This law is unworkable. This law is uneconomic.’
“…Clause 145 is wrong in principle. It is unfair because it treats what is a homelessness and welfare issue as a criminal justice issue, and it is unnecessary because residential home owners are already protected in law.” [Baroness Lister in the House of Lords]]
1. Don’t panic, Squatting is not illegal yet. Section 6 rights still apply.
2. You’re not alone; there are thousands (estimated 20-50,000} of squatters in residential properties; this will make the new law very hard to enforce and potentially unworkable.
3. Private tenants and those in social housing are also vulnerable under the laws; many groups are forming in response to the new legislation – both squat and not. Squatters are not alone in this time of housing insecurity.
4. In Holland, anti squatting legislation was successfully challenged under the European human rights legislation. People still need to be taken to court to be evicted. In the UK, legal experts are already building a case to challenge this legislation in the European Court of Human Right – under right to family life (Article 8)
5. In the government consultation, 96% of people who replied said don’t criminalise squatting including the Police Federation, Judges and the Law society. Criminalising squatting in residential properties is not popular legislation, it has and will continue to come under attack from all sectors of society.
6.The police and bailiffs may act as if the law has already come into force. It has not. Inform them of this and refer them to the contacts at the end of this leaflet if further clarification is needed.
7.The commencement order has not been made, meaning we don’t know yet when the law will take effect.
8.Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 Section 144 Offence of squatting in a residential building The new law makes it a crime where:
You trespass in a residential building, and
You entered the building as a trespasser (rather than e.g. by invitation), and
You know or ‘ought to know’ that you are a trespasser, and
You are living in the building or intend to live there (for any length of time)
It is not a crime to remain in a building after the end of a lease or licence, even if you leave and re-enter the building.
The law only applies to ‘residential buildings.’ A building is “residential” if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live – in other words if commercial premises are squatted and turned into residential premises by the squatter, the law won’t apply.
Its still legal to squat empty unused commercial buldings,eg :factories,shops,churches,community centres,warehouses,pubs,land for eco villages,etc.derelict/unused space.
If convicted of this offence by the court, the maximum penalty is
Imprisonment for 51 weeks Or a fine not more than £5,000 Or both a fine and imprisonment
Police can enter and search squatted premises to arrest a person for squatting.
- Building” includes any structure or part of a structure, including a temporary or moveable structure
- The fact that you got title to the building from a trespasser, or have permission to be in the building from a trespasser, does not mean you are not a trespasser.
Be prepared for when this legislation comes into force. We need to work as a community to fight this together. This law will be resisted all the way. Together, we will show this law is unworkable.
Build networks of solidarity
Have regular meetings, meals, socials, football games,parties.
Turn up to eviction resistances
Build solid networks: Phone trees/ text groups Build email lists.
Network with other housing groups and local communities
Side step the government, self organize
Tell SQUASH and other groups about positive squatting case studies, illegal evictions by police and bailiffs and other information that would be useful media and court cases. Filming can help..
May – Queen gave Royal Assent, therefore law is now on the statute books; the law is not in force until a consultation has been conducted,maybe by Sept.
May-September (?): consultation period when the government will consult local authorities, police, and housing and affected groups to inform them and assess the impacts of the new law. During this period the law and its implementation will be clarified
September onwards: Prosecution cases will start to define how these cases are handled by the courts, eg setting precedents, punishments, evidence. There may be opportunities to repeal Section 136 of LASPO.100,000 signatures on a petition to Parliament would start this process.
For more and updated info check
1) Squash – Squatters Action for secure Homes www.squashcampaign.org
Provide positive case studies and support when dealing with the media.
2) Advisory Service for Squatters (A.S.S) www. squatter.org.uk
Help with court proceedings, illegal evictions
3 )Squatters Legal Network sln@aktivix Assisting with legal cases, arrestee support
4) Squatters Eviction Resistance Network: firstname.lastname@example.org 07591 415860
Support and advice before, during and after an eviction attempt.
The government said that it would not bring in any new laws to unnecessarily criminalise people, yet they are criminalising the homeless in a housing crisis, which makes this law unjust and unworkable.
The whole process has been a shambles of undemocratic principles.
It will cost the government an estimated 790 million to implement [SQUASH Report], even though the aim was to cut Legal Aid expenditure by 350 million. This new law will be difficult to interpret and enforce, taking up massive amounts of police time.
In response, we need to work as a community to fight this together. By:
Build networks of solidarity,Have regular meetings, meals, socials, Turning up to eviction resistances
Phone trees/ text groups,Build email links,network network network.
There are over a million empty buildings in a housing crisis-Take Action Keep Networking