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Nothing gets my blood boiling like squatters’ rights

Only in England can strangers get away with taking possession of your home with the help of legal aid

Simon-White.jpg
SIMON WHITE, DIRECTOR, LONDON’S SURVEYORS

Over the years I think I’ve become a generally placid chap – nothing really rattles me. Of course I am moved by genuine tragedy such as the catastrophies in New Zealand that has made so many people homeless and the floods in neighbouring Australia.

These events put into sharp focus the one thing that does make my blood boil – this disgusting thing called legal squatting.

It’s not the actions of the squatters themselves that makes the red mist descend, it’s the law itself.

We’ve lost the plot in this fine ours where the world’s drifters and ne’er-do-wells can hitch a free home.

It’s not the actions of the squatters themselves that makes the red mist descend, it’s the law itself

Take Guy Ritchie, for example. I don’t know him and he’s never invited me for a beer in his Mayfair pub The Punch Bowl, but I am sure he’s a decent sort.

As you probably read in the newspapers, he vacated his London house in Fitzrovia so it could be renovated. Instead some squatters moved in and he needed a court order to get them out.

We are good at casting a sanctimonious glance at other country’s cultures if only to prove how righteous we are in the UK but could you see this happening anywhere else in the world?

I’ve just come back from Dubai where they don’t publish crime statistics because there is virtually no crime.

If you steal a Mars bar there they chop your hand off – extreme I know but you understand the point I am making.

The only reason why squatting is a problem here is because our legal system allows it to happen with no deterrent.

It’s all part of the same thinking that puts you behind bars if you catch a machete-wielding burglar on your landing at 2am and decide to give him what for.

And it gets worse – I give you a modern day hero named John Hamilton Brown who I think deserves a knighthood.

He owns but can’t live in a five-bedroom house in Archway, north London as it is now occupied by squatters.

This man has more restraint than my underwear because if it were me I would have taken a stronger approach. But not our Hamilton Brown, because he did the right thing and applied for a court order.

Now get this bit – the squatters were given legal aid to fight their so-called case and because this is the UK they won.

As if it couldn’t get worse, the squatters are from countries where if you pulled a stunt like this you’d spend the next 20 years digging up salt in Siberia.

But don’t panic, an Englishman’s home is his castle – yeah right.

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  • dizzy 21st March 2011 at 12:33 pm

    If i knew of an empty property that had been unoccupied for many years i would move my family into, putting the work needed into it to make it a decent home Why let these empty home’s go to wreck & ruin when there are a lot of people out willing to put the work into them like myself needing a decent place to live

  • joe 9th March 2011 at 6:23 pm

    The root of this arguement is inverted snobbery in my opinion.

    The squatters and their supporters will harp on about job cuts, benefit cuts and how ‘middle class’ people just simply couldn’t understand.

    How anyone can justify someone occupying property owned by another party is just baffling. But that’s not the worst of it, the fact that they refuse to leave is what really gets my goat, and the law allows for this.

    I am not sure how forbidding squatting is counterproductive, as I can’t imagine too many squatters carrying out refurbishment in the houses they occupy. As far as I can tell, they just seem to leave wine bottles and empty crisp packets lying around.

    Sqautting isn’t the way to reduce homelessness, just like stealing isn’t the way to solve laptop-less-ness!

  • gyges 8th March 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Is is important in our society that we have the liberty to take over abandoned property and bring it back into use. Taking away this freedom is counterproductive leading to neglect and greater homelessness.

    Further, there is currently a campaign by a Sunday newspaper to try and take away this freedom; consequently some of these ‘squatters from hell stories’ are spurious. As Anon 07 Mar 3:20 pm points out,

    “Cases like the Archway property are the exception rather than the rule, as it is counterproductive to squat in somebody’s home.”

    Some details here http://bit.ly/hotQDo

  • jim byles 7th March 2011 at 5:28 pm

    nothing makes my blood boil more than surveyors talking tosh.

  • Jim 7th March 2011 at 4:15 pm

    So, it’s the banks’ fault that people squat, of course it is!

    Nothing to do with the squatters themselves, they have no choice but to break into someone else’s home which has been paid for with hard earned money!

    The previous comment seems to suggest that because of the housing shortage, we should all just find an empty house and move in rather than go down the ‘old fashioned’ route of getting a job and saving for a deposit.

    Also, having looked through Simon’s previous articles, I get the impression he is a Chartered Surveyor rather than a journalist, so I’m not sure why he would be expected to comment general problems in ‘Modern Britain’ such as job cuts or lost benefits.

    A good article in my opinion, but what do I know, I wasted my time and money and bought my home!

  • Luther 7th March 2011 at 4:09 pm

    To be fair the law seemed to have operated rather well in the Guy Ritchie squatting case.

    From what I can gather, the squatters moved in to the empty property on the Sunday. Ritchie’s lawyers got an IPO to prove immediate right to possession, and the squatters were out by the Friday.

    Of course Mr Ritchie will not be immediately moving into the property, since as photographs show it was a semi-derelict shell prior to the start of renovations.

    It’s not the police’s job to examine housing agreements, and so quite rightfully a civil court was needed to determine who had the right to possession.

    Unless you would like to see the police doing the work of unscrupulous landlords for them, and throwing tenants onto the street?

  • not a squatter 7th March 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I know lots of people who live in squats and have been to several of them. Not one is in a property that was being occupied at the time it was taken. Cases like the Archway property are the exception rather than the rule, as it is counterproductive to squat in somebody’s home.

    This article is a piece of fearmongering aimed at getting middle class homeowners freaked out at the prospect of anarchists moving into their home – which isn’t going to happen! What about people getting evicted from their homes by the banks? Why don’t you do some useful journalism and write about the problems going on in modern Britain that have caused a massive housing shortage, countless unused empty homes and a general unaffordable market. Jobs are being cut, benefits lost and more people are squatting.

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