Today (1/9/12) the new squatters law comes into force.
“At last!” landlords up and down the country are saying – “at last I can get the police in and get rid of those pesky squatters!”
It was something the police had power to do anyway – so presumably the only reason for this new law is that they never did it!
Considering to it be a ‘civil matter’. Beneath the dignity of a police offer to deal with, not being ‘proper crime’ like burglary or murder, but something inferior.
Real police don’t do civil
So the $164,000 dollar question is – will the police do anything about squatters NOW? Or will they continue to brush it off as a ‘civil matter’. Will having the offence enshrined in s144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishing of Offenders Act 2012 make it into a proper crime?
Which then begs the question, are we going to have to keep making new laws about offences which the police don’t want to deal with, until they finally deign to do their job? It seems, to say the least, a bit wasteful.
Not getting it right
So maybe we should have a new act about unlawful eviction? Because the Police certainly don’t seem to do much about that. (And it IS a criminal offence – Protection from Eviction Act 1977)
Regularly (so the stories say) obliging Police Officers are helping landlords move their hapless tenants possessions out, without benefit of a court possession order (you don’t believe me? Click here).
Maybe its because ‘Protection from Eviction Act’ sounds a bit wishy washy . It was a namby pamby leftie act after all. There are no macho words like ‘punishment’ or ‘offenders’ in the title. So it can’t be a proper crime can it?
So the Police will help landlords evict tenants illegally but (up to now) won’t help landlords evict squatters under the law.
Some people might say that just shows the Police could do with a bit of legal training. (Although heaven forfend, that would involve paying out money to trainers – quick, lets pass another Act instead …)
Don’t hold your breath
Going back to squatting – landlords may be jumping up and down with glee but others are feeling a bit more cynical about it all. David Lawrenson for example thinks that the squatters will just go out and a fake a tenancy agreement.
Which of course they may, now he’s told them how to do it.
I have to say that I have doubts as to whether this act will do what is intended. My fear is that it will have a more sinister effect: – encouraging landlords to call the police to evict proper tenants on the basis that they have not paid the rent – we already know that the Police like helping landlords evict tenants (see above).
However if it does have the desired effect, then we know what to do if other acts don’t work now don’t we? Just pass another act re-stating the same thing but with a different and more forceful title.
In the meantime, if the Police for some unaccountable reason won’t come out and evict your squatters – the County Court eviction process is still there and reasonably efficient.
PS For the avoidance of doubt – I do NOT support squatting in people’s homes! I think the Police should have been evicting squatters under the old law – which would have saved people a lot of trouble.