Westminster 'first' to enforce squatting law

Westminster Council is believed to be the first to use a new anti-squatting law brought in earlier this month.

The legislation makes squatting a criminal offence, thereby allowing local authorities to call in the police to arrest unauthorised occupants, instead of having to pursue lengthy civil eviction proceedings through the courts.

Within days of the law coming into force on the1st of September Westminster City Council's housing management provider, CityWest Homes, contacted the police about a squatted flat on the Lisson Green estate.

Police asked for the squatter to be given prior warning before they arrived at the property.

When they did so, the occupant had already left with all his belongings - said to include furniture and a flat-screen TV.

Jonathan Glanz, Westminster's cabinet member for housing, said: "Councils and ordinary hard-working people across London have for too long faced lengthy legal battles to get their homes back from squatters.

"With these new powers, we have been able to recover a property from a squatter who was depriving a family in desperate need of a home, in a much quicker time than was previously possible.

"We will not tolerate the illegal occupation of our homes and will work with CityHomes and the police to take action where we need to."