It looks like the 1st September will be the date that the new law on squatting residential buildings (Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 ) comes in to effect.
The Advisory Service for Squatters gives the following advice on their website:
Not everyone who is squatting, or considered by others to be squatting, will be affected by the new law, but people will need to be prepared to explain, quite forcefully at times, why they are not affected.
The wording of S144 starts:
(1)A person commits an offence if—
(a) the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a trespasser,
(b) the person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and
(c) the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.
(2)The offence is not committed by a person holding over after the end of a lease or licence (even if the person leaves and re-enters the building).
So Squatting is still legal in non-residential properties. A building is defined as ‘residential’ if it is “designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live”.
Squatting will remain legal under many circumstances and everyone is going to have to be prepared to explain how it is that they are NOT covered by the new law.
You are also not committing an offence if you have, or have had a tenancy or licence to live in the property, if you are not living or intending to live in the property, or if you don’t have any way to know you are a trespasser (in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this).
Tenancies and licences do not have to be in writing, but if people have reason to think they may be accused of breaking the law it would be best to collect as much paperwork as possible. Tenancies and licences can also have been granted by a tenant of the owner, or by an agent, possibly without the owner’s knowledge (but they can check and return).
Any police officer would need to have reasonable suspicion that you (or anyone) have committed a crime, to force entry and to carry out an arrest, so it can be in your interests to explain otherwise. Explaining through a closed door or upstairs window is always preferable to letting them in.
Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 still applies against those trying to force entry without lawful authority. The problem is that the new law gives further lawful authority to the police to enter if they suspect the offence is being committed.
ASS has been working on, and will be publishing further guidance very soon.
There is also a Meeting to discuss the effects of the new law and how we respond Monday 27th August from 2pm at 12-14 Benwell Road N7