Landlord Assist, the tenant eviction firm, are worried that the United Kingdom will see a significant increase in squatters should local councils throughout the UK be forced to release details of every single empty property in their borough.
Recently a tribunal ruling forced Camden Council to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request to disclose their list of over five-hundred empty council managed and private homes in their area. The judge claimed that it was in the public interest to release the information, but Landlord Assist disagrees. Landlord Assist is fully supportive of the plan to bring as many empty properties back into use as possible. However, they are concerned that they may become a target for squatters and warns the same problem will happen if every council is forced to make similar disclosures.
Landlord Assist’s Managing Director said: “Bringing empty homes back into use would be a welcome initiative if they were used by councils to support the housing needs of vulnerable people, those on modest incomes, first time buyers and retired citizens. However, publishing a list of empty properties at the request of the Advisory Service for Squatters is simply an advert for squatters. It beggars belief that councils should be forced to hand over a list of empty properties. If other councils across the UK are forced to follow suit, inevitably the number of squatters will rise and this could lead to an increase in vandalism and criminal behaviour.”
Landlord Assist regularly deal with cases of squatters where property owners with property insurance have had to go through the courts to get back their property. Squatters do not seem to understand that their actions affect people who sometimes can’t afford to go through the financial strain of recovering their property. The Government is currently considering emulating Scottish law by making squatting a criminal offence.