The ‘Moldovan squatters’ were discovered on 8 January, in a house belonging to Mr and Mrs Mason:
The house was built in 1970 and Mrs Mason’s parents, Betty and Bill, moved in the following year when she was nine. Bill died in 2003 and Betty moved into a care home in 2009. The house was rented out to pay the costs.
Betty passed away in December 2010 and the two-year tenancy came to an end in May last year, after which Mrs Mason decided to sell up.
So far, so good. The sale came to a halt on January 8th:
An offer of £248,500 was accepted last month but the deal ground to a halt on January 8 when the Masons, who have no children and live 12 miles away in Epping, Essex, learned the Moldovans – four adults and four children – had moved in.
And the occupants claimed to be Tenants:
The owners were also met by a woman clutching a ‘tenancy agreement’ when they arrived.
‘She was saying she would call the police,’ said Mrs Mason. ‘So we thought let’s call the police and resolve the matter. But they couldn’t do anything.’ Officers examined the occupants’ documents, which stated they let the property from a woman called Sharon Wright from December 28 and paid £2,000.
The occupants allowed the Masons to examine the House:
They were unable to contact the woman and refused to pass her mobile number to the Masons, who were allowed inside briefly to examine the house, which had been left unfurnished.
But this is not a police matter:
Police told them they were powerless to act as it was a civil matter.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘Squatting in an empty property remains a civil matter and the owners were advised accordingly.’
The Masons are distraught, understandably:
‘We’re not eating, we’re not sleeping properly. I have had to inform my buyer that the house is now occupied by squatters and we cannot sell it to her.
and it may take 8 months to regain possession:
Lawyers have advised the couple that they face a legal process that could take up to eight months and cost them thousands of pounds.
While I have huge sympathy for Mr and Mrs Mason, there are more FAILS here than you get in an integrity check for MPs’ expenses in the last Parliament.
Taking a deep breath:
1 – This is not squatting. If it was squatting they would not have waved a ‘tenancy agreement’ in front of the people knocking on the door.
2 – On the other hand this *is* probably part of the Mail’s continuing ‘demonise the foreigners’ campaign. Whether Moldovans should be here or not is a different matter.
3 – That ‘up to eight months’ eviction time is roughly how long it can take to eject a legal tenant who has decided to stay while not paying the rent – the process is tortuous. Repossession of an unlawfully occupied property by someone who wasn’t a tenant, in contrast, usually takes a small matter of weeks.
That lawyer deserves the sack.
4 – If they were real squatters they would not be brandishing a ‘Tenancy Agreement”. In that case, all the owner has to do is prove that the Tenancy Agreement is a fake and that they own the property, and they can move straight to a repossession hearing at the local Court.
5 – There is no need for the sale to fall through; all that was required was appropriate advice as to how long the process would take, and the buyers would be likely to stay.
6 – The Telegraph has picked up the Daily Mail story without substantial correction.
7 – In this case a criminal offence has been committed, and the police could have picked that up.
The potential offence is that the ‘tenants’, who have to leave the property, are the victims of a con-artist to the tune of £2000, which are the upfront costs for a tenancy on this type of property – a month’s rent, a ‘deposit’, and potentially some ‘admin’ charges.
I can think of no better way to stop this type of scam than by catching the conmen who are organising it. They should be the target of the Daily Mail, not their victims.
It is possible that the 8 occupants of the house had faked up their own Tenancy Agreement, but in that case it remains a police matter (faking a Tenancy Agreement and fraud), and they would be exposed just as quickly by the appropriate police intervention.
To wrap it up – The Epping Forest Guardian reported last week that a Court Hearing was being heard on January 19th.
And that would be, errrm, exactly a week and a half since the owners discovered that their house had been occupied. A decent result for the existing system.
If you want some squatters who we do need to get angry about, try the likes of the Social Centre Plus which occupied the former Job Centre in Deptford High Street in pursuit of opposition to ‘cuts’ last year, and derailed a planned local voluntary project which was planned for the building to benefit the Local Community.
That project was run by the people behind the Deptford Project.
Social Centre Plus was tied up with the extreme left, although presented as ‘non-party political’.
I’d support an amendment to the clause in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offender Bill currently going through Parliament to go beyond current proposals for the criminalisation of squatting in residential buildings. Where projects are underway, or planned in the short term, I’d like to see the concept of Protected Intending Occupier, introduced for residential property in the Criminal Law Act 1977, extended to all buildings.
That would also have caught the OccupyLSX wallahs who occupied a building undergoing residential conversion at the weekend.
Photo credit: Daily Mail.