Hove MP Michael Weatherley has presented a petition to 10 Downing Street calling for squatting to be criminalised.
Squatting is currently considered a civil matter, not a criminal one, and Mr Weatherley argues that it is often very difficult and time consuming for owners to regain possession of their property.
The Conservative MP has been campaigning for months for a change in the law, and recently tabled an Early Day Motion in parliament, proposing the criminalization of squatting.
Arguing the case in a recent speech to the House of Commons, the MP said squatting was a huge problem in his Hove constituency, adding:
“Properties can be destroyed very quickly. It should be possible to remove squatters instantly as any delay simply results in further
damage and destruction. There should be tough penalties and a criminal record.”
Mr Weatherley believes his campaign is gaining speed. The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke recently voiced support for a change in the law.
The petition was complied by Landlord Action, a landlord advice organization describing themselves as ‘the leading tenant eviction company’.
On handing in the petition, of around 1,300 signatures, Mr Weatherley said: “It’s great to see support like this as my campaign to criminalise squatting gains momentum. Ministers at the Ministry of Justice have taken on board the devastation that squatting has on homeowners across the country and a review of the law is imminent.”
The Squatter’s Network of Brighton (SNOB) has accused the MP of placing political capital above people.
A member of the local group called the proposals unenforceable and unaffordable, adding:
“In a time of economic crisis, it is astounding but not surprising that Tories are aiming to deprive some of the most vulnerable people in this society of a housing option. Meanwhile, the empty buildings rot.”