Squatter removed from estate as council make use of new law

A squatter was evicted from a Westminster housing estate - as the council claimed to be the first local authority in the country to make use of new squatting laws.

Westminster Council had spent four months in the civil courts seeking to remove a young man from a flat on the Lisson Green Estate in Marylebone.

But CityWest Homes, the council’s housing managers, reclaimed the property on Friday as the squatter left after warnings he would be arrested.

A new squatting law, which came into force on September 1, gives police the power to evict squatters without a court ruling if they believe the claim is genuine.

The law has ended centuries old squatters’ rights and made squatting a criminal rather than civil offence, punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of �5,000.

A spokeswoman for CityWest Homes said the home was reclaimed peacefully.

She said: “He didn’t cause anyone any trouble at all about it. No one complained of anti-social behaviour or nuisance, some of the residents didn’t know he was there.

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“He was polite and quite well spoken. He claimed someone told him the flat was available and he had been sleeping rough so he went to stay there.”

She added he had brought his own furniture, including a flat screen television into the flat.

CityWest Homes is currently unaware of any squatters in any of their other properties.

Cllr Jonathan Glanz, cabinet member for housing and property, said: “Councils and ordinary hardworking people across London have for too long faced lengthy legal battles to get their homes back from squatters.

“With these new powers, we have been able to recover a property from a squatter who was depriving a family in desperate need of a home, in a much quicker time than was previously possible.

“We will not tolerate the illegal occupation of our homes and will work with CityWest Homes and the police to take action where we need to.”