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London squatter evictions up 16%

London squatter evictions up 16%

London has witnessed a 16% rise in the number of people squatting in property during the year up to February, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Justice.

The number of court-sanctioned evictions in the capital rose by 26,690 during the 12 months to February 2012, although not all of those marching orders were given for squatting. Guy Ritchie’s £6 million Georgian home in Fitzroy Square was among those to be occupied, where squatters operated a “free school” with a daily schedule of events open to the public.

County courts in the Essex towns of Romford (61%) and Ilford (48%) saw the sharpest increases in the Greater London area over the same period, while the more central districts of Edmonton, Willesden and Croydon all recorded rises of over 25%. Eviction notices also grew by 21% in Bromley, while Clerkenwell and Shoreditch both witnessed an 18% increase.

New anti-squatting and trespassing legislation is expected to come into force next month, with squatters facing fines of up to £5,000 or a potential custodial sentence for illegally occupying vacant residential buildings. The Government says it is “determined to stamp out this distressing practice which causes property owners untold misery and costs them thousands of pounds in eviction, repair and clean-up costs”.

But critics, including the Law Society, Lib Dem politicians and artists, call the law change “pernicious” as homeowners were already fully protected against squatters.

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