A new squatters right

Proposer
hiltona
State

Rejected

Vote Score

1

Age

2291 days


@hiltona edited manifesto/housing.md - over 6 years ago

Government-backed lending schemes will be offered to landlords with unoccupied residential properties that require refurbishment or repair in order to get them back into use.

A new squatters right

There are over 200,000 long-term empty homes in the UK http://www.emptyhomes.com/statistics-2/empty-homes-statistice-201112/

We believe that housing is an essential utility for modern life and that it is unethical to hoard such scarce resource.

We propose a new system of squatters rights to incentivise owners of empty homes to bring their popert back into occupation. In order to benefit from the right to occupy an empty home, the following conditions must be met:

The property must be a residential property and must have been unoccupied for at least six months

Squatters must pay Council Taxes as the occupier

Squatters must maintain the property in good order and rectify any damage beyond reasonable wear and tear

Squatters must not unreasonably under or over occupy a property

Squatters must not incur any anti social behaviour sanction (unrelated to the act of squatting itself)

Squatters must vacate the property at three months notice if the property owner can prove their intent to bring the property back into occupation. Property owners who use this provision to gain possession of a property but who fail to arrange for the reoccupation of the property after a reasonable time will be liable to a fine payable to the evicted squatters and will be required to allow the return of the squatters, again under the above conditions.

Rental Sector

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

It is unethical to hoard essential yet scarce resources and this new squatters right (and responsibilities) will create an incentive for the owners of Britain's 200,000+ long-term empty homes to bring them back into occupation

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - over 6 years ago

Good stuff! 👍

Floppy

@Floppy - over 6 years ago

👍 I'll do some minor formatting changes after merging.

mikera

@mikera - over 6 years ago

I think we need to look at this one more. Can we have a sensible discussion on how to solve the housing problem without making the IMHO extremely badly judged assumption that squatting is a thing that should be encouraged?

This seem like a bad policy - more consistent with a desire to mount a class war against property owners than a sensible approach to solving the housing problem. It doesn't seem to have an place in a modern manifesto.

It has many obvious flaws in the way it is currently worded - Six months seems far too short. If someone travels abroad for a year and chooses not to rent out their home (as, I would argue, is their right...), then how is it fair for squatters to get a right to live rent free for an extended period of time, at massive expense and inconvenience to the owner? Perhaps six years might be reasonable. - "Reasonable wear and tear" might be fair if you are paying rent, not if you are a squatter / trespasser - It will incentivise opportunists to spend time looking for houses they can occupy, rather than incentivising them to earn money to pay a fair market rent - It's not clear how you will ensure that any damage is repaired. Will squatters be required to buy insurance and/or put down a sufficiently large deposit? - 3 months to evict someone for squatting seems highly unreasonable - The legal costs are potentially significant, as might be the burden on police to monitor, detect and prevent illegal entry. We don't want to be encouraging any of that!

But more generally, there are much better ways to solve the housing problem: - Land Value Tax can incentivise owners to rent out empty property, otherwise they will lose money - Building more homes!! - Providing state funded, low cost or free accommodation for people who need it

If we really want unoccupied properties to be put back into use, then I would prefer a mandatory rental scheme administered by local authorities, along the following lines: - Notification to the owner / right of reply - Rental at market rates - If the owner really wants the place empty, they have the option to pay market rent for the place themselves (thereby indirectly funding the government to create replacement housing elsewhere) - Rental profits shared between local authority and an allowance for repairs and maintenance - Property to be fully maintained in its original state, allowance for extremely minor wear and tear consistent with age and careful usage - 3 months notice period if owner makes no reply, or exact date handover back to the owner if the owner can guarantee when it will be put back into use.

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

Mike,

I support all three of your proposed measures.

My proposal on squatters really is nothing to do with class war. It's about discouraging foreign oligarchs buying properties as an investment and leaving them empty because they're interested only in the capital gain.

My principle is that housing is a scarce, necessary resource and that hoarding it is unethical.

Someone travelling for a year only needs to find a friend who needs somewhere to live and let them occupy the property.

This is far less beneficial to squatters than the rights that were recently abolished. There's no right to claim ownership after 12 years for a start.

Without the three months notice it's less incentivising for homeowners. But that three month notice ensures squatters have something to lose by not complying with their responsibilities.

At the moment the state spends money identifying empty homes and trying to bring them back into use.

This might lead to some opportunists looking for places to squat, but I think it's more likely to lead to 200,000 long-term unoccupied homes being put on the rental market.

Sent from my iPhone

On 13 Oct 2014, at 02:53, Mike Anderson [email protected] wrote:

I oppose this one.

This seem like a bad policy - more consistent with a desire to mount a class war against property owners than a sensible approach to solving the housing problem. It doesn't seem to have an place in a modern manifesto.

It has many obvious flaws in the way it is currently worded

Six months seems far too short. If someone travels abroad for a year and chooses not to rent it out, then how is it fair for squatters to get a right to live rent free for an extended period of time, at massive expense and inconvenience to the owner? Perhaps six years might be reasonable. "Reasonable wear and tear" might be fair if you are paying rent, not if you are a squatter / trespasser It will incentivise opportunists to spend time looking for houses they can occupy, rather than incentivising them to earn money to pay a fair market rent It's not clear how you will ensure that any damage is repaired. Will squatters be required to buy insurance and/or put down a sufficiently large deposit? 3 months to evict someone for squatting seems highly unreasonable But more generally, there are much better ways to solve the housing problem:

Land Value Tax can incentivise owners to rent out empty property, otherwise they will lose money Building more homes!! Providing state funded, low cost or free accommodation for people who need it Can we have a sensible discussion on how to solve the housing problem without making the IMHO extremely badly judged assumption that squatting is a thing that should be encouraged?

If we really want unoccupied properties to be put back into use, then I would prefer a mandatory rental scheme administered by local authorities, along the following lines:

Notification to the owner / right of reply Rental at near-market rates Rental profits shared between local authority and a fund for the owner / allowance for repairs and maintenance 3 months notice period if owner makes no reply, or exact date handover back to the owner if the owner can guarantee when it will be put back into use. — Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub.

mikera

@mikera - over 6 years ago

@Hiltonia - I'm curious about "hoarding housing is unethical". As I see it, the reason housing is scarce and expensive in the UK is purely because of controls over land usage, not any fundamental scarcity. The UK has plenty of land, we have just chosen as a society to significantly restrict the use of land for housing.

I see nothing wrong with people choosing to keep their homes empty per se (assuming they have paid a fair price / any relevant taxes for the use of that property). The unethical thing in my mind is the we have failed as a society to provide abundant, cheap housing. That's the real problem here.

Re squatting itself: squatters rights to me always feels like a legal loophole that allows certain people to get something for free at the expense / inconvenience of others. That's not ethical, in my view. Why should we be giving people a windfall of free accommodation just because they managed to find a way into someone else's property?

As a technological measure, I'd support a national property register with information on property use - that would make it easy to identify which homes are occupied or not. We need such a register anyway for government administrative purposes (tax, land ownership, pplanning etc.) so why not create one that also helps make better use of under-utilised property?

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

I agree there are perverse limits on where you can build but that is not the driver of scarcity. There's still a lot of land that can be built on.

This position presumes the market, if freed, will provide the homes we need. Sadly that is not the case as there is a market failure in housing. The big six builders simply stop building when house prices plateau because they make more money when demand outstrips supply.

This is behaviour that would be illegal, or at least untenable in the provision of any other essential utility.

My proposal is not to create 200,000 squats but to get the owners of those 200,000 homes to put them on the Lettings market or lend them to friends etc. Squatters rights cost the taxpayer nothing but deliver an effective market force in doing this.

Sent from my iPhone

On 13 Oct 2014, at 07:24, Mike Anderson [email protected] wrote:

@Hiltonia - I'm curious about "hoarding housing is unethical". As I see it, the reason housing is scarce and expensive in the UK is purely because of controls over land usage, not any fundamental scarcity. The UK has plenty of land, we have just chosen as a society to significantly restrict the use of land for housing.

I see nothing wrong with people choosing to keep their homes empty per se (assuming they have paid a fair price / any relevant taxes for the use of that property). The unethical thing in my mind is the we have failed as a society to provide abundant, cheap housing. That's the real problem here.

Re squatting itself: squatters rights to me always feels like a legal loophole that allows certain people to get something for free at the expense / inconvenience of others. That's not ethical, in my view. Why should we be giving people a windfall of free accommodation just because they managed to find a way into someone else's property?

As a technological measure, I'd support a national property register with information on property use - that would make it easy to identify which homes are occupied or not. We need such a register anyway for government administrative purposes (tax, land ownership, pplanning etc.) so why not create one that also helps make better use of under-utilised property?

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub.

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

Also, that's 200,000 homes immediately. They're already there rather than waiting for them to be built

Sent from my iPhone

On 13 Oct 2014, at 07:24, Mike Anderson [email protected] wrote:

@Hiltonia - I'm curious about "hoarding housing is unethical". As I see it, the reason housing is scarce and expensive in the UK is purely because of controls over land usage, not any fundamental scarcity. The UK has plenty of land, we have just chosen as a society to significantly restrict the use of land for housing.

I see nothing wrong with people choosing to keep their homes empty per se (assuming they have paid a fair price / any relevant taxes for the use of that property). The unethical thing in my mind is the we have failed as a society to provide abundant, cheap housing. That's the real problem here.

Re squatting itself: squatters rights to me always feels like a legal loophole that allows certain people to get something for free at the expense / inconvenience of others. That's not ethical, in my view. Why should we be giving people a windfall of free accommodation just because they managed to find a way into someone else's property?

As a technological measure, I'd support a national property register with information on property use - that would make it easy to identify which homes are occupied or not. We need such a register anyway for government administrative purposes (tax, land ownership, pplanning etc.) so why not create one that also helps make better use of under-utilised property?

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub.

mikera

@mikera - over 6 years ago

Hmmmm I'm curious about how much squatters actually cost in terms of police / law enforcment. And it isn't just taxpayers - one must include the burden on people trying to get illegal squatters evicted, which must be a significant personal cost. I don't have data but it is certainly going to be considerably more than zero, and total could become larger by an order of magnitude if it is made even easier for squatters to take over properties

I think there are much better ways to encourage rental of these 200,000 properties.... unoccupied property charges, for example, or increasing the tax burden on all properties to ensure that there is a strong economic disincentive to holding on to properties.

Stopping the big land builders from holding land banks is a separate issue - I'd certainly support measure to ensure that the land builders to either build on the land, or sell immediately to someone else who is willing to do so.

francisdavey

@francisdavey - over 6 years ago

Squatting has the unpalatable problem of being essentially unregulated. People who are good at it get a windfall (somewhere to live) whereas those who are not don't. Not good in a rule of law society in my view.

You might want to have a look at the Empty Dwelling Management Orders and why they haven't been popular with local authorities. These are nearly a solution to the problem, but they lack some of the necessary financial incentives for local authorities to use them in any great numbers. They were introduced by the Housing Act 2004 and used by a few authorities.

A modified EDMO might be a part of the solution. It is particularly useful to deal with properties that remain unused for bad reasons, eg that the owner can't organise themselves to make them fit for habitation. All EDMO decisions by tribunals are available online (though not easily) and worth a read through to see how they work out.

Planning is certainly a problem for Roma and others who having been prevented from using public spaces some decades ago started buying their own land to live on but found local authorities bringing injunctions to prevent them parking caravans on their own land. The Roma's view is that this is illogical because the alternative is they ask for local authority housing and there's a shortage of that.

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

The proposal is not the same as squatters rights of old. You have to maintain e property, you have to occupy it appropriately, you have to pay your bills and not be a nuisance to the neighbours. You also don't get to claim ownership and you have to vacate if the owner makes arrangements to reoccupy

This is in fact a very regulated proposal. These are rights you only get if you accept the responsibilities.

However, it talks to a simple principle. Housing is an essential utility, not a commodity, and hoarding an essential utility when others are in desperate need is unethical.

EDMOs failed because they are dependant on councils being funded to enforce them. My proposal simply creates a market force to incentivise property owners to ensure occupation. Without any cost to the taxpayer.

Sent from my iPad

On 16 Oct 2014, at 19:58, Francis Davey [email protected] wrote:

Squatting has the unpalatable problem of being essentially unregulated. People who are good at it get a windfall (somewhere to live) whereas those who are not don't. Not good in a rule of law society in my view.

You might want to have a look at the Empty Dwelling Management Orders and why they haven't been popular with local authorities. These are nearly a solution to the problem, but they lack some of the necessary financial incentives for local authorities to use them in any great numbers. They were introduced by the Housing Act 2004 and used by a few authorities.

A modified EDMO might be a part of the solution. It is particularly useful to deal with properties that remain unused for bad reasons, eg that the owner can't organise themselves to make them fit for habitation. All EDMO decisions by tribunals are available online (though not easily) and worth a read through to see how they work out.

Planning is certainly a problem for Roma and others who having been prevented from using public spaces some decades ago started buying their own land to live on but found local authorities bringing injunctions to prevent them parking caravans on their own land. The Roma's view is that this is illogical because the alternative is they ask for local authority housing and there's a shortage of that.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub.

Floppy

@Floppy - over 6 years ago

I had a thought about this; does the use of the name "squatters' right" immediately undermine its value in people's minds? The connotations are immediately negative (sadly)...

francisdavey

@francisdavey - over 6 years ago

So, squatters occupy a property and cause damage, then what does the owner do? Suing the squatters is no use because they are straw people. There is no deposit. At present a concerned owner can have the squatters evicted speedily before much damage is done (and indeed have the police arrest them under more recent legislation).

What if an owner wants to sell? Or even rent? They can't do so with squatters in occupation. First 3 months has to be spent evicting them, then if the owner's plans fall through they are fined? That seems awkward and harsh.

What is most odd is that squatters get to live somewhere without paying rent. I find that baffling. Why should a group of people have that right when most people won't? Or are we all to be encouraged to prowl our local area looking for property to break into and occupy?

If the owner is paying a mortgage and desperately trying to sell the property, what then? The squatters free-ride on the owner's desperate situation. The owner ends up in debt when the property is repossessed if the market is falling, but the squatters pay nothing. That doesn't sound fair to me.

The idea that someone shouldn't be liable for "reasonable wear and tear" makes no sense for someone not paying any rent.

EDMO's didn't work, but something like them might. They are controlled rather than anarchic. They do not reward the able as against the disabled or the violent against the weak. They aren't an answer to the housing shortage, but they seem to me a better starting point than squatting.

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

It might be positive, depending on the target audience

Sent from my iPhone

On 16 Oct 2014, at 20:16, James Smith [email protected] wrote:

I had a thought about this; does the use of the name "squatters' right" immediately undermine its value in people's minds? The connotations are immediately negative (sadly)...

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub.

hiltona

@hiltona - over 6 years ago

No OPM policies are detailed. And all the points you raise can be ironed out. But you're looking at the squat. I'm looking at the market effect of forcing owners to rent out or otherwise occupy their property

It has to be inconvenient for the owners or it isn't an incentive

Sent from my iPhone

On 16 Oct 2014, at 20:24, Francis Davey [email protected] wrote:

So, squatters occupy a property and cause damage, then what does the owner do? Suing the squatters is no use because they are straw people. There is no deposit. At present a concerned owner can have the squatters evicted speedily before much damage is done (and indeed have the police arrest them under more recent legislation).

What if an owner wants to sell? Or even rent? They can't do so with squatters in occupation. First 3 months has to be spent evicting them, then if the owner's plans fall through they are fined? That seems awkward and harsh.

What is most odd is that squatters get to live somewhere without paying rent. I find that baffling. Why should a group of people have that right when most people won't? Or are we all to be encouraged to prowl our local area looking for property to break into and occupy?

If the owner is paying a mortgage and desperately trying to sell the property, what then? The squatters free-ride on the owner's desperate situation. The owner ends up in debt when the property is repossessed if the market is falling, but the squatters pay nothing. That doesn't sound fair to me.

The idea that someone shouldn't be liable for "reasonable wear and tear" makes no sense for someone not paying any rent.

EDMO's didn't work, but something like them might. They are controlled rather than anarchic. They do not reward the able as against the disabled or the violent against the weak. They aren't an answer to the housing shortage, but they seem to me a better starting point than squatting.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub.

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

Perhaps it would be better to simplify the proposal? To focus on the 'regulation' of squatting, for example?

Not sure... I understand the market force idea, that's nice, but I'm worried about whether this would really work, for the reasons @francisdavey has outlined.

philipjohn

@philipjohn - about 6 years ago

✋ on this for the moment, hoping we can simplify it a bit