London council is first to use anti-squatting law


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A London council is believed to be the first to use a new anti-squatting law to reclaim a home from an unauthorised occupant.

Powers which came into effect on 1 September allow local authorities to call in the police to arrest squatters, rather than pursuing lengthy civil eviction proceedings through the courts.

Westminster City Council's housing management provider, CityWest Homes, contacted the police about a squatted flat on the Lisson Green estate within days of the provisions becoming law.

Police asked for the squatter to be given prior warning before they arrived at the flat with housing officers to take possession of the property, said a council spokesman.

But when they arrived at the flat in north-west London, the occupant had left with all his belongings - said to include furniture and a flat-screen TV.

Jonathan Glanz, Westminster's cabinet member for housing, said: "Councils and ordinary hard-working people across London have for too long faced lengthy legal battles to get their homes back from squatters.

"With these new powers, we have been able to recover a property from a squatter who was depriving a family in desperate need of a home, in a much quicker time than was previously possible.

"We will not tolerate the illegal occupation of our homes and will work with CityHomes and the police to take action where we need to."

Under the new powers, contained in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, councils can remove squatters by simply complaining to the police who, if satisfied that the claim is genuine, can arrest the illegal tenants.