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| Words: 2400 | Submitted: 13-Feb-2005
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DescriptionAnalysis of squatters rights from a legal perspective.
The English legal property system allows owners of property exclusivity, where they are perfectly entitled to keep habitable buildings empty, if they so desire. With this underlying feature within the legal system, combined with a lack of adequate housing for homeless people, squatting is inevitable. One of the features of the legal system is to protect personal property with few restraints being placed on owners. This is evident when looking at the success rate of possession orders being sought against squatters. Squatters have rarely succeeded in having possession orders quashed, with most successful examples of this outcome occurring in the 70s .
Pre 1970, it was relatively difficult for a squatter to be evicted, as it was necessary for the owner to find out the names of the squatters in order to make a possession order. However, in 1970, owners were able to make an order to ‘persons unknown’, provided reasonable steps to discover the names had been taken.
Denning L, in the Mc Phail case, was criticised by law commentators for taking an over-simplified view of the owners’ position. He stated that it was not necessary for owners to go to court to regain possession and that self-remedy was a preferred option for them. In 1977, new rules further curtailed squatters' rights by stating that no reasonable effort had to be made to discover the names of the squatters, in order to issue a possession order. Further to this, the warning period was reduced from 7 days to 5 days and only two copies of the summons had to be issued. Therefore, in a multi-occupied property it would be possible for a squatter to be completely unaware of the summons. Also, post 1975, possession orders could be issued on a property and not on the occupants, thus removing the previous loophole that existed, allowing squatters to simply ‘swap’ properties on the issue of a possession order.
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