An inevitable tactical switch by squatters

by evolvedlegal on November 7, 2012

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James Swede of Darlingtons reports on the latest manifestation of the squatting issue. More content from James can be found at and also at

With the new criminalisation of residential squatting, many will say it was inevitable that the squatters would simply shift their tactics and their possessions to unoccupied commercial premises instead.

This is  certainly the experience of commercial property solicitors, as reported this week in the press.

There is little doubt that there is a homelessness issue of sizeable proportions in the UK and whilst we can understand why squatting was criminalised, it does appear to be less than joined up thinking to create a new law for residential property only.

There are a lot of unoccupied commercial buildings, particularly high street shops at the moment and the problem for commercial landlords is perhaps compounded by the fact they may continue to be liable for business rates even when the shop is unoccupied. Add this to the property being occupied by squatters and it can become the proverbial nightmare scenario.

To us, the real problem with squatting was that the civil law was quite slow, cumbersome and expensive. there’s nothing more frustrating than having to go through ridiculous rigmarole which can include displaying the court claim form on a post outside premises and then waiting, only for a spurious defence to be raised by the squatters who “play the game” in every way possible.

As the saying goes in criminal law terms, “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. Well, the squatting problem is largely caused by societal issues and the fact that there is not enough social housing, it really does some unfair for the Government to seem to be playing a game of pass the parcel, on the one hand being seen, belatedly, to get tough on squatters by criminalising it, which may root out many of the squatters who care at all about their future prospects, whilst at the same time, the problem just shifts to a different arena, in this case commercial rather than residential property.





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