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Monday, November 12, 2012

No More Squatting in Sad Old England

Posted by on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 at 8:57 AM

I had no idea about this...

Under a law in place since the beginning of September, squatting in empty residential properties in England and Wales is already a criminal offence, with those convicted facing months in prison and steep fines. The ministry of justice estimates that up to 2,000 people could be prosecuted each year.

Supporters of the law, including David Cameron, the British prime minister, argue that banning squatting is necessary to protect homeowners and landlords, to prevent associated anti-social and criminal behaviour, and to give the police and courts greater powers to evict, arrest and prosecute those engaged in it.

This is fucking huge. It's hard for my mind to imagine how this law can be enforced. Indeed, in the late 80s, I stayed in an apartment building in the Docklands that was occupied almost entirely by squatters. Only three souls, myself included, were paying rent, and we looked like fools. Has all of that changed? Is squatting a thing of the past? If so, London is a very different city now.

 

Comments (21) RSS

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21
@14 Is it possible such a system would ultimately result in a housing shortage? The prospect of having the homes they built confiscated by the state if they couldn't rent/sell them fast enough might discourage property developers.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on November 12, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
20
According to the NY Times this morning, post-eviction squatting is alive & well in Spain.
Posted by jhops on November 12, 2012 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Posted by venomlash on November 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
18
@16

It would be rather surprising if a law passed in September had emptied out all the squats in London by mid-November.

And I think most people will be surprised if the law is used to roust anyone outside of squats that have been singled out as "problem" or "nuisance" by their surrounding communities (or, of course, by officious busybodies and the property developers who encourage them, when they figure the risk of public backlash to be less than the potential reward).
Posted by robotslave on November 12, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Dougsf 17
@1, @14 - Here in San Francisco, owners are fined once their property is reported abandoned.

The fines aren't terribly steep (not to a developer or speculator, anyhow), but they're steep enough to get my ass down to city hall in a fucking fury when I got a letter mistakenly telling me my place, that I live in, was "abandoned" (which it was, before I bought it. But, um, I'm listed as 'occupant', on the title transfer, THAT'S HOW YOU GOT MY NAME FUCKERS. You mailed me the notice to my Goddamn address for fucks sake?! Who was supposed to get that mail in an abandoned building?).

Anyhow, just came here to vent. This issue is complex, so I guess I've got nothing to add.
Posted by Dougsf on November 12, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
16
I can personally vouch for some squats that are still alive and kicking in London.
Posted by skiplogic on November 12, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
15
@14

Fair enough, but let's finish building the system you've begun construction on, there.

Suppose squatters in need have occupied an abandoned building. What do we do if the landlord decides to redevelop the land? Or if someone buys the property from the landlord, and wants to put it to use more or less as is? Can the squatters simply prevent this at their discretion? Do you send the police in to toss them out on the street if they don't want to go along with the new plan?

Similarly, what do propose we do with property when a landlord loses rights to it? Is this a system in which we will gradually remove property from private hands, and assign it to the state? Or perhaps reclassify it as non-property, that can no longer be owned at all by any entity? Or if you'd rather re-circulate seized property back into the private property pool, how do you go about that, and what do you do with squatting residents when you do it?

I'm not suggesting this or that system is right or wrong, but which system are you trying to build?
Posted by robotslave on November 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
treacle 14
Squatting abandoned properties should always be allowed by those in need. full stop.

I really like @1 PP's idea... tax landlords for leaving their buildings abandoned (perhaps after a grace period). That goes on long enough, the landlord loses rights to the property altogether.
Posted by treacle on November 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Report this
Doctor Memory 13
@3 I would be quite curious to hear any actual data on how often that has happened. (n.b. Breathless reports about marauding gypsies published in Murdoch papers do not qualify.)
Posted by Doctor Memory http://blahg.blank.org on November 12, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
12
@2

It's rather telling that in identifying the "original purpose" of squatting in Germany, you place political autonomy before, you know, shelter.

It would be surprising, if I weren't already aware of the fact that a devout anarchist is every bit as capable of putting ideology before basic human need as any other political fundamentalist.
Posted by robotslave on November 12, 2012 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on November 12, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
rob! 10
@1: Hundreds of local jurisdictions are changing ordinances to do just that:

http://www.communityprogress.net/
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on November 12, 2012 at 10:42 AM · Report this
Posted by venomlash on November 12, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 8

Aren't there thousands and thousands of people who have been "squatting" in their own homes here in America by living under a foreclosed mortgage and paying nothing?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on November 12, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Report this
7
Recent news has turned focus towards the trend of instead taking over commercial properties, like closed pubs and empty storefronts.
Posted by chorizo on November 12, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
geoff teardrop 6
Not Punk
Posted by geoff teardrop http://twitter.com/wipess on November 12, 2012 at 10:26 AM · Report this
5
Probably brought to them courtesy of these people (the ones they missed, that is):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/96479…

And speaking of jackholes:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/blog/200…

And in case you missed the Bush Family Veterans' Day greetings ("Have a great day, suckers!")

file:///George_W._Bush_and_family.jpg">File:George_W._Bush_and_family.jpg">http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/file:///G…">File:G…

Posted by sgt_doom on November 12, 2012 at 10:12 AM · Report this
More, I Say! 4
Where will Withnail stay now?!
Posted by More, I Say! on November 12, 2012 at 10:05 AM · Report this
3
This is mostly in response to squatters who would break into people's houses while they were on vacation, change the locks and claim that the property had been empty when they moved in. Then it would take the owners/tenants a couple of months to get the squatters evicted. While I lived in the UK there was a story in the papers at least every couple of weeks about some unfortunate family with no place to go while they waited for the court proceeding.

Of course, there is also a significant problem with properties in London that are owned by rich foreigners, but just sit empty for years on end, but that problem is more difficult to "take action against."
Posted by Aaron CM on November 12, 2012 at 9:57 AM · Report this
2
This has been happening to squats in Germany, too. Well, at least in Berlin, a few of them have been "legalized"...which kind of partially defeats the original purpose of being off the grid. The last true squat, Brunnenstra├če183, was closed in 2009. Schwarzer Kanal, a queer Wagenplatz, was forced to move to a location farther out from the city center.
Posted by mhulot on November 12, 2012 at 9:51 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 1
I always thought the building's owner should pay steep fines for vacant property. It would bring down rents.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on November 12, 2012 at 9:39 AM · Report this

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