I was a squatter once …..

….. for two nights, at any rate.

I moved into the house in which I live now, as a squatter. This was because the extension my landlord had granted me on my tenancy agreement was up, and my conveyancing solicitor was still dragging his heels. Fortunately, I still had the keys from when I had visited the property to check on the progress of work being carried out there; so, contracts exchanged or not, I moved in anyway.

The legal situation then was that a court order was not required to evict a squatter in the cases of:

  1. A Displaced Residential Occupant — someone who already lived there and had had the building appropriated while temporarily absent
  2. A Protected Intending Occupant — someone who has bought, rented or been given the property, but is prevented from taking possession by squatters.

As the property came with vacant possession, I was legally a PIO — and therefore the only person who could legally evict me without a court order. And the only people who would bother to get a court order to evict me were my estate agents and legal team. Knowing the speed they moved at, that race was well worth a punt …..

The law does not need to be changed. There are already adequate provisions for dealing with the most egregious cases (“I just nipped to Sainsbury’s for a bottle of dry white wine, and a bunch of squatters moved in while I was out” — DRO; “When I arrived with the keys, they didn’t fit the lock. There were squatters in the house and they said they weren’t going anywhere” — PIO) and if the property is not currently in, or soon to be in residential occupation, then it should be for the courts to decide whether the right to keep an empty property overrides the right to a roof over one’s head.

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