Saturday, January 17, 2009

Property rights and real estate: Squatting in Britain

Markets allocate rights, but laws determine what those rights entail. Britain's real estate laws are unusual in giving owners only limited rights to their property when it is unoccupied. The Washington Post reports: Recession Revives Britain's Squatter Movement

"Squatting -- taking up residence in a vacant building -- has been a tradition in Britain since at least the 14th century, as well as a barometer of the times. It boomed after each of the 20th century's two world wars, when returning soldiers needed places to live, then picked up steam again in the radical 1960s.
Now, despite local governments' efforts to discourage it, squatting appears to be on the rise once more as a deep recession hits the country.
In Britain, trespassing is a civil offense, not a criminal one. Provided the squatters do not break a window or door to enter or otherwise damage the property, police are largely powerless to remove them.
Landlords must petition a court for an eviction order, and they can be prosecuted if they attempt to remove the intruders by force. " ...

""The owners are upset and distressed about this. They can't understand how the squatters can be permitted to break into their house and live there," said Andrew Jeffrey, a lawyer who represents the owners of the Mayfair house. "In nine out of 10 countries around the globe, this would not be tolerated, and the police would remove them immediately."
Nic Madge, a circuit court judge in London and a specialist in property law, said proposals in the 1970s to criminalize squatting were defeated in the face of "considerable political opposition."
"The standard British sign, 'Trespassers will be prosecuted,' is generally a legal fiction," Madge said. "

"Ron Bailey, an activist who started Britain's modern squatting movement in 1968 and has written books about squatting, said Britons have a history of sympathy for the practice that goes back hundreds of years. "We look at it as a social good," he said. "If it's a house left empty for a long time, I don't think people see anything wrong with it."


commercial real estate said...

ron bailey has some good point on that...i wanna read his book..

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