The number of court orders to evict squatters in London’s wealthiest boroughs has rocketed by over 100% in the last 12 months.
- You can read about the government’s plans to further criminalise squatting HERE under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.
- The Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes (Squash) campaign have this guide on the legal position of squatting HERE.
According to the legal publishers Sweet & Maxwell, county courts in which interim possession orders are issued for affluent areas of London include:
- Central London (covering Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Mayfair) which saw an 81% rise in applications for interim possession orders, reaching a total of 29 in 2011.
- Willesden (covering Regents Park, North Kensington and Notting Hill) where the figure more than trebled, rising from four cases in 2010 to 17 in 2011.
- West London (covering parts of Belgravia and Knightsbridge as well as most of Kensington and Chelsea) where the number of cases remained static at five cases in both 2010 and 2011.
- Across the three courts, the number of applications has gone up 104% in the last 12 months.
There have been a number of high profile cases involving squatters in prime London properties – see the ‘Belgravia squatters‘, the serial squatters that occupied houses worth between £12 to £33m in Belgravia Square and Eaton Square. In March squatters targeted the £1.6m South West London home of Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton.
‘The rise in squatting in these affluent areas could be attributable to the increasing number of foreign investors who, since the global recession, have been buying prime London properties as safe investments and leaving them vacant,’ commented Daniel Dovar, co-author of Residential Possession Proceedings, published by Sweet & Maxwell.
Dovar attributed the rise in squatting to high rental prices in London and high unemployment. ‘The Eurozone crisis has also increased the amount of economic migration across Europe, some of whom may end up squatting when they move to a new city. Unemployment in Spain is now over 24% of the workforce,’ he added.
The Government has proposed a change in the law in this area, which will criminalise squatting in residential properties. Under the Legal Aid Act, people found squatting in residential properties – including empty properties – will face up to a year in jail or a £5,000 fine.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award