Squatters make good stories

A squatters story in the Evening Standard caught my eye today and I can’t bear to let such nonsense pass.

The story (so we are told) is that a hotelier moved out of his home for a week while it was being renovated and, coming back, found that it was occupied by squatters. He is now unable to access his own home and his possessions. The newspaper indignantly reports his misery and unhappiness — leading to many commenters on the online edition calling the law an ass or words to that effect.

First, it seems to me that the hotelier is a “displaced residential occupier”, who can certainly use force to enter his own home and reasonable force to remove the trespassers. Even if he is not, he (with solicitors instructed according to the report) can quickly produce evidence that he is a “protected intending occupier”, permitting him the same rights as a displaced residential occupier.

The police are quoted as saying it was a “civil issue” — showing that the Metropolitan Police are as clueless about laws that protect freeholders as they are about those that protect tenants from unlawful eviction (the civil/criminal line is obviously drawn in a different place in PoliceLand than it is by the rest of the world — theft and “looking at me in a funny way” or “being in possession of a camera in a public place” falling on the one side, with unlawful eviction with a knife being on the other).

Of course if the displaced Mr Gupta is able to demonstrate his status as either a displaced residential occupier or a protected intending occupier of the premises then the squatters are committing a criminal offence contrary to section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and the Police could (and really should) arrest them for it.

The same article has the legal gem: “If squatters manage to stay in a home for 12 years, it effectively becomes theirs.” I suppose fact checking is quite dead now.

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