Charities fear squatting law will raise homelessness
Charities have warned making squatting illegal will drive up homelessness, as the new powers come into effect.
From tomorrow squatting in residential buildings will be a criminal offence in England and Wales.
Under the new law, squatters could face a year in jail or a £5,000 fine if they trespass onto the property.
‘It will do nothing to address the underlying reasons why vulnerable people squat in the first place - their homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.’
Leslie Morphy, chief executive, Crisis
Landlords will be able to complain to the police who can then arrest the squatters.
The law will not catch tenants who originally occupied properties with permission but subsequently refused to vacate.
Previously squatting has been treated as a civil matter meaning that landlords had to go to court to prove that squatters have trespassed onto their property to get an eviction.
However, at the beginning of May, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill received Royal Assent making it a criminal offence.
The Act also restricts access to legal aid to instances where households could be, or have been, made homeless.
The government is hoping this will help cut the annual £2.1 billion legal aid bill by £350 million a year from 2014/15.
Housing minister Grant Shapps today tweeted: ‘Squatting has been illegal in Scotland since 1865. From tomorrow it will be a criminal offence in England too.’
Squatters organisations and homelessness charities have warned the new laws will lead to an increase in homelessness and criminalise thousands of people.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: ‘There was already legal provision that police and councils could, and should, have used to remove individuals in the rare instances of squatting in someone’s home.
‘It will do nothing to address the underlying reasons why vulnerable people squat in the first place - their homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. Ultimately the government needs to tackle why homeless people squat by helping not punishing them.’