Squatting – the other side of the argument

Finally the day has come. From today, helping yourself to anothers entire property, the garden shed, the kitchen sink, and everything in between, with out the owners permission, will become a criminal act. If you take a car without the owners consent, it is classed as theft. If you break into a house and steal a computer it is classed as theft. However, if you break into that house, refuse to leave and claim ‘squatters rights’, you can steal the whole damn thing and it’s classed a civil matter. Now where, I ask you, is the logic in that?.

Squatting set to become a criminal offence

Squatting in a residential building in England and Wales becomes a criminal offence on Saturday, meaning squatters would face jail or a fine.

Ministers said it would offer better protection for homeowners and “slam shut the door on squatters once and for all”.

The maximum penalty will be six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.

Good. This really is a ludicrous situation that has been allowed to continue for far too long. Just because you lack something, it does not give you any kind of right to simply take what you want, or need from another.

But campaigners warned the new law could criminalise vulnerable people and lead to an increase in rough sleeping.

No it won’t. It will only criminalise those that chose to commit crimes, everyone else can go about their business, just like they did before, be they vulnerable or otherwise. As for the increase in rough sleeping, well, who knows, this law may actually help to reduce the amount of vulnerable, homeless people. From today, all a rough sleeper needs to do is try and steal a house and they will be offered free room and board for 6 months. Sounds like a win/win to me.

Catherine Brogan, from the campaign group Squatters’ Action for Secure Housing, told the BBC: “What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

As far as I can tell there is no housing crisis, no shortage of houses. There are plenty of them. Where ever you look, there they are. Every street I walk down is chock full of houses. There’s millions of the bloody things. I think what Catherine actually means is there is a shortage of houses people can pay nothing, or very little for, which I admit is probably true. We may need a solution to this crisis/shortage. Allowing those that don’t have a house the legal right to steal one from those that do is not it. I notice there is a shortage of ‘affordable’ Bugatti Veyrons, which means I can’t have one. Does that mean I am entitled to go help myself to Simon Cowells?. No it bloody well doesn’t.

Again, the police aren’t going to suddenly round up and arrest every homeless person because of this law. They will only arrest those that get bored/tired of being homeless and think they can resolve the situation by trying to steal someone elses house.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, said legal provisions were already in place for removing squatters from people’s homes and the new offence could leave vulnerable people facing jail or a fine they cannot pay.

She said: “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 in the first place by helping not punishing them.”

Legal provisions that take months/years, cost the rightful owner thousands in legal fees, not to mention the cost of repairs and does nothing to deter ‘squatters’ from simply moving on to the next property they believe they have the right to steal. This law is not designed to address the ‘underlying causes of homelessness’, it is there to protect the property of people that aren’t homeless, from those that are. There is plenty of help out there for homeless people, really there is if this article is anything to go by.

A little story to round this post off. I live in a house but I don’t own it. I rent it, privately. I have rented various properties from my landlord over the years. Last year I was due to move to a new property. The builders, electricians, painters, carpet fitters etc went in and did their stuff. Two days before moving day I got a surprise visit from the Landlord. There was a problem. You guessed it, Squatters. Somehow they had managed to gain ‘lawful’ entry to the property, through an ‘open door’ and were refusing to leave. Having contacted the police and been told it was a ‘civil matter’ my landlord decided to be very civil about it.

The following day, armed with nothing more than a clip board, a tape measure, a high vis jacket and a camera he spent a couple of hours standing in various gardens, close to his own property, photographing the houses opposite and writing stuff down. All the time he studied the coming and goings of the squatters as they wandered in and out of his house. He made a point of engaging them in conversation. ‘Morning, nice day, moving house is a pain, isn’t it?’ and such like, all the while snapping away and writing stuff down.

Finally he arrived at his own house. He knocked on the door. It was opened by a youngish woman. ‘I’m sorry to bother you, I was wondering if you minded me standing in your garden for a couple of minutes, I need to photograph the house opposite?’. The woman shrugged ‘What ever’ and shut the door. A few minutes later he knocked on the door again, ‘I’m so sorry, I can’t fit the whole of the house opposite in my lens, would you mind if I stood in your doorway, it will only take two seconds and then I’ll be gone?’. The woman shrugged again ‘Fine, but wipe your feet before you come in’ and disappeared back inside, leaving the front door wide open.

And in strolled the Landlord, wiping his feet on the way. Having gained lawful access to his own property, through an ‘open door’, the first thing he did was make some phone calls. Within 20 mins the house was filled with builders, electricians, carpet fitters and painters, about 40 in all. The second thing he did was have one of the electricians disconnect the electric supply, the gas fitter disconnect the gas supply and a friend nip outside and turn off the water. They then ordered pizza and sat around, eating, laughing and asserting their ‘squatters rights’. The anger of the woman and the other ‘householders’ was quite something, I’m told. It took less than 3 hours for them to admit defeat and leave. No laws were broken, nor property damaged. By all accounts, it was all terribly civil.

The squatters phoning the police to complain about squatters, only to be told to ‘take it up with their lawyer’ was very comical and is still talked about over a year later.

14 Responses to “Squatting – the other side of the argument”

  1. C H Ingoldby September 1, 2012 at 12:08 Permalink

    The fact that organisations like ‘Crisis’ see fit to defend squatting is an eye opener for me. I shall make sure to never support them in anyway whatsoever, ever again.

  2. ivan September 1, 2012 at 13:04 Permalink

    As I said in a comment on the other post on this topic, does he, or she, without actual experience of being squatted has any right to pontificate about this law?

    As for the fake charities, they should stop being lobby groups and actually do what they were supposedly set up to do, although I think they would find doing the latter a bit beyond them.

  3. JuliaM September 1, 2012 at 14:13 Permalink

    That is an AWESOME anecdote! :)

  4. James Higham September 1, 2012 at 15:15 Permalink

    Yes, obviously anyone sane would be on the side of the landlord in that anecdote. I was referring, in the first post, to unoccupied and abandoned premises, where no conflict arises or in fact the building of makeshift premises.

    In the situation SS describes, if a landlord or owner reasserted a right, then the squatters leave. End of story. This is what the law should state. If they refuse, then that’s when the £5000 and jail term come in.

  5. JuliaM September 1, 2012 at 16:11 Permalink

    So, James, does that just go for houses, or any currently-unused property?

    I mean, my car’s downstairs not being used while I’m on the computer. In fact, I won’t be using it until the morning. Does that mean someone else is entitled to it in the meantime?

  6. James Higham September 1, 2012 at 16:29 Permalink

    That’s in your garage – it’s yours. I’m not referring to anything obviously belonging to someone. You know my views on private property.

    I’m speaking of abandoned, derelict, any owner long gone. I’m speaking of people who have nothing, not benefits, not anything.

    I’m speaking of the future dystopia, Julia and pray you never find yourself in that position. It’s a time I see coming as people drop off the middle class, as they’ve been designed to do.

    No one’s argued more against socialism and for private property than I and yet a time is coming I think we’ve none of us seen before. That’s what was in my mind.

  7. Jim September 1, 2012 at 22:48 Permalink

    Generally speaking, up to say 10 years ago, JH was right. Squatters did tend to utilise otherwise abandoned buildings. Yes it may not have been that legal, or even totally ethical, but in a practical sense no-one (other than some stupid councils, and some property developers) lost out very much.

    Then what happened? Our Leftist government opened the door to all and sundry to enter the UK from the Eastern Europe, most likely supported by the lefty squatter types. After all, being against immigration is so Fascist Tory B@stard darling. But unfortunately our Eastern European chums didn’t understand the rules of the game. Instead of finding a proper empty, unused property to squat in, they just started just breaking into people homes while they were on holiday, or working abroad, or even out at the shops. And using the squatters right to stay put.

    And suddenly whatever positive feelings normal people had towards squatters evaporated. Middle class hippies squatting in some unused flats is one thing, criminal types nicking lived in homes while the owners were momentarily elsewhere is another. It could happen to you. Not so quaint then.

    Which means that the new law is being met with a general sentiment of ‘Too right. Time they did something about it.’ If only those squatters had opposed the expansion of the EU, and the unfettered immigration it has brought, then they might still be able to squat in peace. Alas, no more. The middle class hippies will be swept away with the Rumanian criminal gangs. And I for one will not shed a tear.

  8. Amfortas September 2, 2012 at 06:07 Permalink

    Squatters pay no attention to the rights of others. Their actions are not simply unlawful in the ‘civil’ sense (and with our ‘laws’ continually sliding into farce I am not defending ‘law’ per se) but driven more by selfishness than forced poverty.

    Not being a naturally violent chap, I would not advocate that the landlord in the anecdote ask his many builder-friends to give the squatters a sound whacking in situ before they ‘left’, but had they done so, I can admit to an imagined smile lighting my face. I would of course regret it immediately, but heck, what is regret for if it is not exercised occasionally.

  9. JuliaM September 2, 2012 at 06:24 Permalink

    “I’m not referring to anything obviously belonging to someone.”

    Houses don’t grow free and wild from the house tree – someone always, ALWAYS owns them.

    In the case of council housing (of which there’s a lot left empty, it’s true, and that’s usually down to absurd legislation demanding over-enthusiastic living standards) WE own them. We, after all, paid for them!

  10. James Higham September 2, 2012 at 07:29 Permalink

    Julia, I’m not disagreeing and take the point 100%. Our property is what we paid for and some bstds are trying to take it away arbitrarily for an ideology of all wealth is common or through their own incompetence and criminality.

    I really am as much against that as you.

    However, a time is most certainly coming where people are on the streets, the hostels are full and trampery rears its head again. In that scenario, premises will be occupied and we’d better have a policy towards that soon or else we’ll be back to the C18th policy of overcrowded prisons, hulks on the Thames and transportation to Australia.

    You’re living in the here and now with your feet firmly on the ground, Julia. I’m living in the future.

  11. James Higham September 2, 2012 at 07:42 Permalink

    Just had a comment from one of the resident feminazis, Suzie – why she still bothers is beyond me if she hates me so much but in faith to her, I’ll print part of her comment:

    As a washed up male, who supports squatting rights because that’s where he might end up next week (certainly not because of any logical ideology) you should just shut up. You are not a good person and most of the time you speak tripe.

    I need to point out that I don’t support squatting rights in the least. As I explained to Julia, I’m looking at a future situation.

    As for ‘not a good person’ – that’s surely for others to decide. Her comment in itself, I think, reveals to readers where she is on the scale of “goodness”. And Suzie dearest, if you can’t use my name, then please don’t use any at all. I don’t abuse your name.

  12. Amfortas September 2, 2012 at 07:55 Permalink

    Suzie needs a good dose of Love, such as provided and described in this article:

    http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/34055-the-gay-protest-that-encountered-the-love-of-god

    She might even find out what ‘Good’ actually means.

  13. Rossa September 2, 2012 at 07:59 Permalink

    The fake charities, like Crisis, will never do what they were supposedly set up to do because if they did there would be no more need for them. That’s like Turkeys voting for Xmas…don’t think so!

  14. James Higham September 2, 2012 at 08:01 Permalink

    There’s logic in that.

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