12:27 02 September 2012
Have you gone on a long vacation and found squatters living in your own house, sleeping on your own bed the moment you got back? Well, although this is utterly unacceptable, it isn’t something new in England and Wales.
Squatters are known to occupy residential buildings without the consent from landlords and second-home owners. However, starting September 1, 2012, this will change as squatting is now a criminal offence.
Under the new law that protects homeowners, squatters would face jail time or a fine or both. Maximum penalty is 6 months jail time or £5,000 fine, or both.
Before the law took effect, squatting was a civil matter. Homeowners were required to go to civil court and present evidence that the squatters are taking their homes without their consent before they can be evicted.Once they have successfully evicted the squatters, homeowners usually spend a lot of money for renovations and they obviously find the whole process unacceptable.
This is the reason why the new law is backed up not just by homeowners but by the police force and labour party as well.
However, not everyone is happy with the new law. Campaigners insist that this is not the best option to address the issue. Catherine Brogan, from the campaign group Squatters' Action for Secure Housing, said: "What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society."
Other campaigners urge the government to focus on addressing the underlying reason for squatting which is lack of affordable housing.
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