The UK government is planning to criminalise squatting in residential buildings despite 95% of responses to its ‘consultation’ opposing any further legislation. If this bill is passed it would sanction a £5000 fine or up to a year in prison for those squatting in residential buildings.
Although the current law is sufficient in protecting homeowners, the government proposes to make squatting a criminal offence. Both the media and politicians have been criticised for making misleading statements regarding the law surrounding squatting and failing to challenge inaccurate reporting.
The criminalisation of squatting could cost taxpayers as much as 790 million pounds over 5 years. The new law applies to empty/abandoned properties and would have a detrimental effect on the growing problem homelessness. Squatting is currently a civil matter and is handled by the council. Criminalising squatting would add pressure to the already stretched police force, who would be tasked with handling evictions under the new legislation. The housing crisis and lack of strong tenants rights have already put many homeless people and other vulnerable groups in a difficult position. This new law will only exacerbate these issues.