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  • Stickies & Evergreen

    First Eviction Under New Squatter Law

    Squatters – One word that fills a home owner and landlord with dread. Well, after 20 years of dealing with possession claims, I can lay claim to the “Squatter From Hell” as my most recent challenge.

    Here is the background. We’d inherited a property for which another agent had found 3 tenants. At some point they had invited in a guest. The guest wanted to be added to the tenancy, which we were happy to accept, subject to a new tenancy including all parties. This did not happen as the 3 tenants all gave notice to leave.

    On move out day, the tenants duly left – but the guest refused, claiming he had nowhere to go….

    As he was invited in by the tenants, in law, he is was not classified as a squatter (I won’t bore you with the complexities!).

    Our in-house legal process kicked in and we duly obtained an order for possession. The guests position was set out in the claim. He did not make any representations.

    He still refused to leave, so a bailiffs warrant was issued. Come eviction day, he remained, claiming that the court order was flawed because it named the original tenants, but not him. This was because he was not a tenant, but the order also applied to all other occupiers.

    The bailiff ultimately called the police and he was escorted away. The locks were then changed.

    A few days later, I attended at the property. I walked upstairs to be confronted by the “guest” – He’d re-entered! He was later to tell the police that; “after passing the property on the way to the library he saw an open window….” Yeh, right.

    After asking him to leave and refusing, I called the police. The guest then tries to baffle the officer with details on how the court process was flawed, how he can stay and that it is a civil matter that needs to be decided again by the courts….

    After listening to both sides – and confirming with the station that the Possession Order was all that mattered, the officer said that if he did not leave, he’d be arrested for breach of the peace. The guest calmly sat down and said he was being very peaceful and not causing any damage.

    Frustrated the officer took me to one side and said that there was nothing he could do!

    Not so! I pointed out the new law relating to Squatters (section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012). Basically, after the original eviction, his re-entry was that of a squatter which was now a criminal offense. This law only came into effect on the 1st September 2012.

    It took an hour for the officer to get the okay from the Desk Sergeant as they needed to check up on the full details of the law. This was the first case for Merseyside Police. He was given the nod. The squatter was given one last chance to go voluntarily, which he denied and was arrested.

    I then spent the time arranging for windows to be made secure and the services to be turned off – not easy at it was now 9.30 pm. We also had to feed the squatters pet rats and make sure that they were watered.

    After that – preparing a police witness statement and home for 11pm!

    The final outcome – Following arrest he admitted the offense and accepted a police caution.

    The landlord – well he’s nursing thousands of pounds of lost rent and an even bigger bill for damage to the property. He’s also regretting the day he choose a letting agent who did not thoroughly vet the tenants and get a home owner guarantor.
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    Good to hear that the new law is working, but how is a normal person meant to cope when a legal expert like you had to spend so long explaining the law to the police? I don’t like the fact that the person just got off with a police caution.

    In this case would a home owner guarantor for the tenants help as the tenants themselves had moved out correctly? Likewise how likely is it that vetting of the tenants would have shown anything us the guest has been invited in sometime later?
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    Hmmm. Well done.

    The Officer is allowed to make an arrest before a breach of the peace occurs is he not?

    Can you get him for damage to the window?

    My view on this is that since it's routine for 'squatters' to housebreak then tell a pack of lies to the police, if it is practical to do so throw the book at them :-).


    ML
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    (27-09-2012 02:23 PM)ian2128038772 Wrote:  Good to hear that the new law is working, but how is a normal person meant to cope when a legal expert like you had to spend so long explaining the law to the police? I don’t like the fact that the person just got off with a police caution.

    In this case would a home owner guarantor for the tenants help as the tenants themselves had moved out correctly? Likewise how likely is it that vetting of the tenants would have shown anything us the guest has been invited in sometime later?

    Yes, a home owning guarantor would have helped - As would tenant vetting.

    The guarantor would be liable for rent/damage until we regain possession. Ditto the tenants. However, these tenants had no ID/Address checks done. If they were liable and we able to be held to account, they would be making sure through their own means that the guest left.

    Also, improving the tenant profile via checks, guarantor and home visits reduces the risk.

    We also offer a service to new landlords where we will guarantee rents for 12 months until we get possession and include £50k of legal cover to evict and covers property damage.




    (27-09-2012 02:27 PM)midlands_landlord Wrote:  Hmmm. Well done.

    The Officer is allowed to make an arrest before a breach of the peace occurs is he not?

    Can you get him for damage to the window?

    My view on this is that since it's routine for 'squatters' to housebreak then tell a pack of lies to the police, if it is practical to do so throw the book at them :-).


    ML

    It was a sash window with a broken latch on the inside. The guest claimed it was open. Remember, just as there are landlord resource forums, there are plenty of squatter websites advising people how to play the system.

    This guy claimed to be a studied law and worked previously at law firms.


    (28-09-2012 07:28 AM)vanessa warwick Wrote:  A 21-year-old man arrested at a flat in Pimlico, central London, has become the first person to be jailed under the government's anti-squatting legislation.

    Alex Haigh, originally from Plymouth, has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to occupying a housing association flat without permission.

    The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Haigh was the first person to be given a custodial sentence under section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which came into force on the first day of September.

    Read the rest of the story >>> here

    This would have gone to court because he pleaded not guilty. My guy admitted the offence.

    The good news is that as word gets around, more police will become aware, as will squatters.
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    >It was a sash window with a broken latch on the inside. The guest claimed it was open. Remember, just as there are landlord resource forums, there are plenty of squatter websites advising people how to play the system.

    >This guy claimed to be a studied law and worked previously at law firms.

    I'm wondering how a straightforward lie can be challenged.

    Presumably cctv available of him breaking in would do it, or a witness.

    What about a dated inventory taken after the first eviction, showing the alleged dead window to have been secure? That wouldn't be total proof, but the police would evaluate on the circumtances on the day, wouldn't they?

    ML
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    Thanks for sharing such a fab real-life story from the coal face Glenn!

    This post is so valuable to the entire property community.

    Hope the pet rats find a good home very soon! Our cats said they would be interested to help with that matter. Smile

    Seriously though, this is a breakthrough story and I will put it into "Stickies" because of the value of it.
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    Excellent Post Glenn,

    We have a similar situation with the exception that we are putting the Onus on the Previous Tenants that all costs will be theirs their agreement is currently "Live".

    Reading your post gives me some confidence in recource if the ex-tenant is unable to sort out their unauthorised guest.
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    Thanks for bringing events on how you have been able to use the new law relating to Squatters.

    On Friday we took a property back with the assistance of a Locksmith having served a section 21 on a Tenant. Thankfully they abandoned the property before the date stated on the notice.

    The Landlord came to us due to the Tenant being in arrears. Sadly the Landlord did not have them credit checked and has no record of the Tenants DOB or NI number, which would be useful when trying to trace them.

    It was our guidance to change all door locks and lock all locks on the windows to ensure the previous occupants or persons unknown were unable to re-enter the property without physically breaking in.
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    (27-09-2012 11:09 PM)manc Wrote:  Thanks for bringing events on how you have been able to use the new law relating to Squatters.

    On Friday we took a property back with the assistance of a Locksmith having served a section 21 on a Tenant. Thankfully they abandoned the property before the date stated on the notice.

    The Landlord came to us due to the Tenant being in arrears. Sadly the Landlord did not have them credit checked and has no record of the Tenants DOB or NI number, which would be useful when trying to trace them.

    It was our guidance to change all door locks and lock all locks on the windows to ensure the previous occupants or persons unknown were unable to re-enter the property without physically breaking in.

    Interesting that you think a Section 21 gives you rights to take the property back
    It DOESN'T!
    If the tenant returns you will be done for wrongful eviction.
    Only a possesssion order gives you rights over an empty property and then only once the date for the tenant to leave has expired.
    This could be for up to 56 days.
    You are on very dodgy ground!
    I have isued a Section 21 that has expired.
    Tenant has not surrendered tenancy, therefore the ONLY way I can take possesion of the property is a PO, which takes months to obtain.
    What if this tenant returns to take up occupation and finds they can't get in.
    They might have been on a long holiday.
    It doesn't matter whether they have paid rent or not.
    The ONLY way you can legally recover a property from a tenant who appears to have abandoned the property and has not surrendered the tenancy is via a possession order.
    If they return and refuse to go then an eviction order is the ONLY way to enforce the PO.
    If I behaved as you I could have recoverd my flat neaxt door to me months ago when the tenant stopped paying rent.
    Legally I cannot do so until I have followed due legal process.
    You have not followed this process.
    You have clearly made a judgement that there will be no comeback; such judgments may come back to bite you big time if you carry on this way.
    But hey it's your risk. , as long asd you know what risks you are taking, that is your choice!!?
    Is there any proforma format that a tribster could devise to hand to a police officer in the event of requiring an PO to enforce this new squatting law.
    I have every sympathy for the police.
    To know every single nuance of the law, especially a new one has to be a nigtmare for them to keep up with.
    Therefore such codified adivce that could be handed to an officer would help all parties.
    I can imagine quite a few LL coming across the 'guest' problem in future.
    Perhaps it also might be an idea to have an appendix to an AST advising tenants and their 'guests' as to the way they would be regarded if ever a PO was enforced.
    I think squatters are in the same position as the police in not fully understanding the way the new squatting law may be enforced.
    The more info imparted to parties at the outset of a tenancy will hopefully prevent any doubts as to the way things will be regarded in the event of the problems you have faced occurring to another LL
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    A 21-year-old man arrested at a flat in Pimlico, central London, has become the first person to be jailed under the government's anti-squatting legislation.

    Alex Haigh, originally from Plymouth, has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to occupying a housing association flat without permission.

    The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Haigh was the first person to be given a custodial sentence under section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which came into force on the first day of September.

    Read the rest of the story >>> here
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