Government plans to scrap squatters' rights

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The Independent Online

Squatters could be jailed and so-called "squatters' rights" scrapped under Government plans.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said it was time to end the "misery, expense and incredible hassle" caused when squatters take over a property.

Under the proposals, the most persistent offenders could be jailed and squatters' rights, which prevent legitimate occupiers of commercial property from using force to re-enter occupied buildings, could be abolished.

Mr Blunt said: "I am clear that the days of so-called 'squatters' rights' must end and squatters who break the law receive a proper punishment.

"Far too many people have to endure the misery, expense and incredible hassle of removing squatters from their property.

"Hard-working home and business owners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first.

"Today's consultation is a first step to achieving this."

A new criminal offence of squatting would be brought in, along with steps to prosecute squatters for other offences they commit, such as criminal damage, burglary, or using electricity without permission.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps added he wanted to tip "the scales of justice in favour of the law-abiding homeowner once and for all".

"There is no excuse for anyone to bring disruption and destruction to property owners' lives by squatting, and that's why it's vital we look to take steps to tackle this problem," he said.

Stephen Cross, head of security at the Ballymore Group, said squatters were costing his firm "many thousands of pounds because of direct damage to buildings, the problems caused to neighbours with loud 'squat' parties, litter, rubbish and the amount of time it takes to sort things out".