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Squatting has become a criminal offence in England and Wales.

It follows on from a public consultation last year on options for dealing with squatting and better protecting homeowners.

The new offence will be punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a maximum £5000 fine or both. Previously, the only option was to seek a civil court order to regain possession of the property, which could be time consuming, expensive and stressful.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said:

‘For too long squatting have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs. Not any more. Hard working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first – this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting.’

The new offence will protect homeowners, legitimate tenants who have been excluded from their homes as well as people who own residential buildings they don’t live in such as landlords, local authorities or second home owners.

More on this story:

Ministry of Justice

Government Consultation

Homeless fears raised: BBC article

New law to be challenged: Guardian article