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Squatting in a residential property to become a criminal offence

6th July, 2012

Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (the “Act”) creates a new offence of squatting in a residential building.

The Act defines “building” as including any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure).

Further, a building is “residential” if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry by the squatter, for use as a place to live.

The Act received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012 and it is has now been confirmed that this will come into effect on 1 September 2012.

The new offence will be committed where a person does all of the following:

Is in a residential building as a trespasser, having entered it as a trespasser.

Knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser.

Is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.

It is irrelevant whether the person entered the building as a trespasser before or after the commencement of section 144.

The fact that a person derives title from a trespasser, or has the permission of a trespasser, does not prevent the person from being a trespasser.

However, the offence will not be committed by anyone holding over after the end of a lease or licence (even if they leave and re-enter the building).

It will not apply to commercial properties although residential buildings owned as part of a commercial undertaking will still be covered.

If you have any queries regarding this article or any other property issues contact Emma McGlinchey at [email protected] or on 01244 405567.

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