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Squatters exploiting the law in London’s empty properties

The Government has vowed to criminalise squatting as a number of recent cases expose loopholes in the law.  Recently a group of squatters took over a home in West Hampstead valued at £1 million belonging to Kaltun Cockerell who was heavily pregnant at the time causing her great distress prior to the birth of her child.  Fortunately the group moved out only to take over an empty flat around the corner.

In another case two retired nurses returned from holiday only to find their New Southgate home occupied by a Romanian family who had trashed their home and looted all their possessions.

The two cases above have forced Prime Minister David Cameron to confirm plans to end the practice of squatting which is illegal in Scotland but flaunted by many in England and Wales.

A number of MPs representing candidates from their constituency are raising the matter in the House of Commons and urging the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke to act as soon as possible to criminalise squatting to end the misery caused to those affected.

Recently Camden Council lost a case to provide a list of all their empty homes after Judge Fiona Henderson ruled that Camden council must tell the public where its empty homes are after Mr Yiannis Voyias of the Advisory Service for Squatters successfully challenged its refusal of a Freedom of Information request.

Camden Council has said the decision could lead to more squatting, which could affect its efforts to bring empty homes back into use.  Camden Council has 28 days to comply with the FOI request.

A group of up to 40 activists and undergraduates from middle class backgrounds has exploited legal loopholes to live for free in a number of historic buildings in London.  Film director Guy Ritchie suffered at the hands of this group earlier in 2011 when a property owned by him estimated to be worth £6 million was taken over by the group.  The same group moved on to other exclusive properties in Bloomsbury Square, Oxford Street and Leicester Square.

Despite causing damage amounting to thousands of pounds the group simply locate their next target and move once the eviction process starts simply because squatting is not illegal.  The squatters know they simply get moved on without penalty and there is nothing in place to stop them from doing it all over again.  The use of social networking sites allows the group to move around freely and advertise the new location to other squatters in need of accommodation.

Brighton and Hove Council have a similar problem with squatters at any given time occupying at least 10 council properties, which prevents families on the council waiting list from being housed.

Many landlords are turning to private security companies who provide Residential Security during their periods of absence rather than face the nightmare of squatters invading their property and causing thousands of pounds in damages.