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Under Government plans squatting will change from a civil offence to a criminal offence, boosting the rights of homeowners who find they have people living in their property without permission.
The Daily Telegraph is claiming the move as a victory for its 'Stop the Squatters' campaign.
Currently squatting is a civil offence against the landlord or owner of the property. This basically means it's unlawful but not illegal. Once inhabiting a property, squatters can claim 'squatters' rights'.
In most cases property owners have to go to a civil court to get a possession order to evict squatters. However, this can take several weeks or months and cost thousands of pounds in legal fees. Landlords who use force to evict squatters can face criminal proceedings.
Squatting appears to be on the increase. Film director Guy Ritchie became one of the best known victims when squatters moved into his £6m mansion in London after it was renovated.
The group, who call themselves The Really Free School, gave other squatters advice on squatting as well as using public transport for free. The gang used the social networking site Twitter to encourage more people to move into the building.
Fortunately for Ritchie and hundreds of other homeowners who find themselves in similar positions, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has announced plans to make squatting illegal in England and Wales (it already is in Scotland). Under the new law squatting will become a criminal offence meaning police will be allowed to force entry and arrest anyone illegally occupying a property.
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