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A step in the right direction Lawyer praises squatting law changes

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One of the region’s leading litigation lawyers has praised the Ministry of Justice for introducing new laws which legally protect homeowners from squatters.

Support for the new legislation (the Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act) has come from litigation specialist Harjie Bindra who says it’s a move which ‘tilts the scales’ back in favour of homeowners and landlords.

The Act, which came into force on 1 September, creates a new criminal offence of squatting in a residential building and applies throughout England and Wales. The law aims to protect landlords, second homeowners and local authorities who discover trespassers living in a residential building they own or control.

Aside from ending the lengthy civil court process, the law also hands more powers to the police who can now lawfully force entry to a building to search for trespassers who could be jailed for up to six months.

Mr Bindra, a partner at Midland law firm MFG Solicitors said; “For years laws surrounding squatting have been unfairly stacked against property owners. But things are changing and through the Ministry of Justice we now have much clearer legislation in place. That’s something the government should be praised for as they have slowly but surely grasped a growing issue and taken decisive action.”

“The law surrounding squatter’s rights changed in 2003 but it was always felt amongst homeowners, especially landlords, that the change was not watertight.

“But we’re in a stronger position now and landlords will be delighted to see their properties and indeed their rights are now more safeguarded. Speaking to some landlords across the West Midlands it is also clear they are encouraged to see sensible legislation being passed and which finally supports them in a situation which for some was their worst nightmare – both personally and financially.

“It has tilted the scales favourably towards property owners, given them stronger protection and vitally, given the police enhanced powers to quickly deal with illegal squatters and accelerate what was always a frustratingly slow process. As always there is more that can be done by the government in terms of the legal framework but this is a step in the right direction.”

Mr Bindra, an expert in dispute resolution, added that he expected the new act to make squatters and trespassers across the Midlands to ‘think twice’ before illegally entering a property given the greater potential for extensive fines and custodial sentences.