Imagine returning home to find your locks changed, your livelihood snatched from behind your own front door, and your home stolen.
Thankfully, the law changed last year, making squatting in lived-in homes illegal, but this doesn’t make the ordeal any less stressful for homeowners who return from holiday to find homeless people occupying their houses.
Innocent residents and landlords cannot force them out or threaten them, but instead have to wait, go through the court process and pay for it.
Stole the property
Fleur, an ex-KU squatter, told The River that she started squatting in Kingston because she “didn’t like it” in halls.
Now, I know most squatters mean well, and she probably stayed in a house that wasn’t being used by anyone at the time. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that she effectively stole the property.
She had a roof over her head in halls already. The University is here to help people who struggle to afford the rent in halls. She has no excuse and no defence for her actions.
Barge in on people’s lives
Loopholes in squatting law have been wrongly taken advantage of several times in the past and the law introduced in 2012 was the first step towards correcting this by forcing out squatters that take over residential homes.
I agree that squatters who have no other option and take over a building that has been abandoned for a lengthy period of time should not be as severely punished as squatters who barge in on families’ lives.
But those who take liberties and ruin lives deserve to be locked up at Her Majesty’s pleasure, rather than their own.
The law is not known for its flexibility. It has to be equal to all and no one is above it.
Desperate house seekers who invade old, unused buildings will end up abusing the system. Including those that squat for revenge. This causes a waste of resources and time, especially in court.
Before 2012, home owners not only had to pay for the eviction of squatters, but were often forced to pay the repair and clean-up costs as well. This should never be accepted considering they follow the law and as such should also be protected by it – not suffer because of its flaws.
I have sympathy for people with nowhere to go at night, but there are other options. Find somewhere else to go.
See Julie Hebenstreit’s article for the other side of the argument.