Roman law means squatter can stay in £400,000 house

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A law dating back to Roman times has landed a DIY squatter with a property worth around £400,000. Keith Best spent a decade doing up 35 Church Road in Ilford in east London.

Best says he found the house empty and vandalised in 1997 and no one has challenged his right to ownership all the time he has been there. He said the original owner died and nothing had been seen of her son since 1996.

Credit: PA

Keith Best got into the property and began working on it, repairing the roof in 2000 and clearing the garden.

As time went on, he replaced ceilings and skirting boards, and electric and heating fitments. He plastered and painted walls.

The Judge said:

  • Keith Best won the legal battle on the basis he had been "in adverse possession" of the property for at least 10 years

  • His lawyers say the adverse possession principle dates back to Roman Law

  • It allows "someone in possession of a good without title to become the lawful proprietor if the original owner didn't show up after some time"

Credit: PA

His solicitor, Riz Majid welcomed the Judge's decision, saying: