Squatting is the act of deliberately entering or occupying a building without the owners consent. The Criminal Law Act 1977 is the legislation that currently applies to squatters. The law contains statutory provisions for criminal offences associated with squatting but does not make the actual act of squatting illegal. In fact section 6 of the Criminal Law Act promotes ‘squatters rights’ by making it an offence to threaten violence to enter a building where someone is inside that is opposed to the entry.
As such Government has decided that a new offence of squatting should be introduced as part of the Legal Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which could see squatters facing fines of up to £5000 or up to 1 year in prison. This has been debated in the House of Lords but has been met with much challenge. Many say that it will have a huge impact on homeless and vulnerable people and the high cost of criminalisation will not be popular with the taxpayer. The Bill has yet to receive Royal Assent.