What the new anti-squatting legislation means for landlords

One of the most substantial threats facing landlords is that of squatters, who have been known to take over properties and refuse to budge. Such a problem can prove to be serious for property owners, as this clearly prevents them from renting out the building and earning an income from it in the meantime.

The good news is that legislation came into effect in the latter part of 2012 in the shape of a new ruling in section 144 of the Legal, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which makes it easier for landlords and local authorities to protect their homes.

It means that trespassing and entering a residential building is now a criminal offence. This is the first time such a classification has been granted to this Act.

The legislation is good news for landlords and they now have more protection against squatters than they have had for more than 30 years.

The Protection Against Eviction Act and Criminal Law Act were first introduced in 1977 and led to the phenomenon known as 'squatter's rights', which allowed trespassers to remain on site.

In fact, landlords and local authorities were actually deemed to be committing a criminal offence if they tried to remove somebody from a property. But the latest legislation on this subject removes this right and gives the power back to homeowners as they aim to rid their estate of squatters.

Perhaps the most significant step forward is the fact that the police can now move to arrest trespassers who refuse to leave a property. Providing there is evidence that the person in question is planning to live on the site, law enforcers will be able to physically remove them.

A landmark moment occurred recently when the first individual was convicted under the Act. There are some initial concerns that the new methods may be a little time-consuming, but they seem to be effective and the threat from squatters has been greatly reduced. This could make being a landlord much easier and something to aspire to once more.

Only time will tell if the new legislation finally puts an end to the threat posed by squatters and just how effective it is for landlords. But the signs are that property owners are at last being afforded the protection and support their investment deserves.

This is not the case for commercial property owners, who continue to face major obstacles when it comes to staving off squatters. Shops and offices can still be taken over by squatters and they will not face criminal actions, as they now would in residential cases.

As such, there is still a significant need for empty commercial premises to be protected in a similar way. The fact that these properties are not covered by the legislation could even make them more valuable to squatters and result in an upturn in cases of them being used.

Commercial property owners are sure to be keen for the government to implement a new ruling that prohibits squatters' use of their buildings.

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Published on: February 18, 2013

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