Homeowners should have right to kick out squatters

SQUATTERS have hit out at calls to give police tougher powers to evict them without having to go through the courts.

Mayor Boris Johnson branded the current rules, which say squatters can only be evicted from a property through a court order, as “crazy” last week.

He promised, along with fellow London Assembly member Steve O’Connell, to lobby the government to change the system to make it easier for homeowners to kick out squatters.

Mr O’Connell said: “The police need additional powers to quickly evict squatters from an illegally occupied property without a court order.

“It is completely unfair that someone’s home can be invaded and it’s weeks and weeks before the police are able to do anything about it because of the legal constraints.

“The balance needs to be shifted in favour of homeowners, not squatters. I’m pleased the Mayor has agreed to work with me to secure greater powers for the police.”

But Jack Tafari, who helps run the website ‘Advisory Service for Squatters’, has branded Mr Johnson’s plans as “ridiculous”.

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Mr Tafari, a member of the group led by Latvian artist Jason Ruddick, who was recently evicted from a Highgate mansion, said: “Naturally squatters will get the worst end of the deal. With cuts you can anticipate lots more homeless people with fewer options. It’s the wrong time to tighten up the law. They’re talking about putting people in jail and giving them fines, which is ridiculous because people who squat don’t have money.

“I’m just hoping for a bit of mercy, but I’m not expecting much from the Tories and their yellow friends.”

The London Mayor’s determination to bring about a change in the law appears to have been sparked by Mr Ruddick’s disclosure to the Ham&High that he had travelled 1,500 miles from Latvia to take advantage of squatters’ rights in Britain.

He said: “I knew before I came that people live in squats – that’s one of the reasons I came – and have some legal protection and get a lot of things for free.”

Shortly after making these comments, the 21-year-old and around 30 other squatters were evicted from the multi-million pound 10-bed home they were occupying in Broadlands Road, Highgate.

Mr Ruddick has since vowed to return to the leafy north London area, but is currently staying with Mr Tafari in the slightly less salubrious Peckham.

Under the present laws, homeowners must obtain an interim possession order before squatters can be evicted by the police.

There are an estimated 20,000 squatters in the country, the majority of whom are thought to be in London.

Do you think the law should be strengthened against squatters? Let us know by email: letters@hamhigh.co.uk.