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Remedies to tackle squatting

Civil remedies to evict squatters from residential premises in England and Wales have existed for some time. The Coalition Government consulted on possible ways of strengthening the law in this area in 2011. Subsequently, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 was amended to introduce a new offence of squatting in a residential building (section 144). 

Section 144 was brought into force on 1 September 2012 by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Commencement No.1) Order 2012 (SI 2012/1956). This provision applies in England and Wales. Squatting in Scotland has been a criminal offence for over 100 years – squatting is not a criminal offence in Northern Ireland.

How many squatters?

Definitive information on the number of squatters in England and Wales is not available. In 2010 the Government estimated that there were 20,000 squatters at any one time. The lack of definitive information on squatter numbers has made assessing the impact of criminalisation difficult.

Squatting in commercial premises

There is some suggestion that squatting in commercial premises has increased as a direct result of the introduction of section 144. The 2015 Government rejected calls to extend criminalisation to cover commercial premises.

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