Tenants & Homeless seize abandoned council house

In the early hours of Monday morning, activists appalled at the crackdown on homeless beggars and the council’s lack of action to create badly needed new homes seized one of Birmingham’s 11,000[4] empty properties. The group calling themselves Birmingham Tenants and Homeless Action Group issued a statement on their website[1] condemning the City Council for failing to take action to help the growing homeless population of Birmingham, which has risen by 25%[2] since 2009.

 Claire Lister, 23, an activist involved with Birmingham Tenants and Homeless Action Group, said, “Homelessness is on the rise and the council is effectively doing nothing, worse – homeless charities have been cut by 29%[2]. Birmingham already has the highest rate of homelessness in the UK[3] and with the incoming housing benefit cuts even more people are going to be at risk of becoming homeless.”

The group are doing up the property to hand over to a homeless person. They say the council, who owns the property, should put it back into use immediately as social housing. Andy Hamilton, 23, said, “This property has been left empty for years now; there is nothing wrong with it. People are living rough on the streets they are getting very ill and even dying. We want this house and others like it to be put back into use right-away to help tackle the housing crisis.”.John Holland ,25, said “A roof over your head should be a right. 11,000 houses are lying empty[4]; – this place mustn’t be left empty when it could house a family.”

The group are demanding the council put back into use as social housing as many of the 11,000 empty homes as possible to deal with the growing homeless problem.

As of the 1st September a new law (Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 [5]) will come into effect making it illegal to squat residential properties. The group condemn the new law saying that squatting is used by many homeless people as a means of keeping a roof over their heads, the new law is in effect targeting and marginalising society’s most vulnerable.

[1] www.network23.org/bthag 

Birmingham Tenants & Homeless Action Group
- e-mail: bthag@riseup.net
- Homepage: www.network23.org/bthag

From Indymedia UK

One thought on “Tenants & Homeless seize abandoned council house

  1. Comments on the new anti-squattting offence in parentheses:

    144 Offence of squatting in a residential building

    (1)A person commits an offence if–

    (a)the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a trespasser,

    [If entered as a result of an invitation to live there from a person/s outside the property who you believed to be entitled to grant a tenancy at will and were not themselves trespassers, then it is arguable you did not enter as a trespasser].

    (b)the person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and

    (c)the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.

    [Prosecution must prove ‘living in’, rather than just visiting the property].

    (2)The offence is not committed by a person holding over after the end of a lease or licence (even if the person leaves and re-enters the building).
    (3)For the purposes of this section–
    (a)”building” includes any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure), and
    (b)a building is “residential” if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live.

    (4)* For the purposes of this section the fact that a person derives title from a trespasser, or has the permission of a trespasser, does not prevent the person from being a trespasser.

    [*See comments above under s.1A(a). The prosecution will have difficulty proving that anyone who gave permission to live in the property was themselves a trespasser, rather than someone entitled to grant a tenancy at will].

    (5)A person convicted of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (or both).
    (6)In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the reference in subsection (5) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.
    (7)For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) it is irrelevant whether the person entered the building as a trespasser before or after the commencement of this section.
    (8)In section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (entry for purpose of arrest etc)–
    (a)in subsection (1)(c), after sub-paragraph (v) insert–
    “(vi)section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (squatting in a residential building);”;
    (b)in subsection (3), for “or (iv)” substitute ” , (iv) or (vi) “.
    (9)In Schedule 10 to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (consequential amendments), omit paragraph 53(b).

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