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December 04, 2012


I'm not sure why a special law against squatting was needed since squatting is trespassing and such laws already exist, don't they?

I'm not personally against it. I know of a squatter--she lives on private land owned by someone somewhere who never comes out here. She lives in her car and parks it on the land.

But I think that anti-trespassing or anit-squattig laws are sort of like the anti=begging laws or laws against people selling cheap stuff on street corners: punishment for people who are just trying to survive.

As long as powerful forces in our society (Republican party, I'm looking at you)are deliberately creating poverty I think there is a moral obligation to at least turn a blind eye to people who somehow find a way to get by anyhow.

Another example: there's an emcampment of tenters on a piece of Forest Service land up a river valley. The camp has been there for years. many of the folks that live there have jobs; they just don't get much pay.

"I'm not sure why a special law against squatting was needed since squatting is trespassing and such laws already exist, don't they?"

You would think, but I feel like squatting seems to be tolerated to a much greater extent in the UK than it is in the US. Any UKians members of the commentariat with an insight here?

Squatting IS essentially pan-American.

Well, until Cortez and Pizarro interfered with their noxious European notions about property lines and contracts and deeds (otherwise known as gimme that, it's mine) and such.

There's several hundred thousand square feet of perfectly good hospital and parking complex space across from my building, including a former psychiatric hospital, which would seem a good place for obsessives like me to squat in, sitting vacant, while the homeless folks in this part of town wander up and down the sidewalks and camp out.

If I were an obsessive about this, I'd let them stay in my apartment while I found a way into the buildings across the way and set up some kind of command center deep within from whence I'd hatch schemes to undermine society.

But I'm afraid the homeless "subletters" would find the AK-47 and golf clubs in my closet and go on a golfing spree.

Actually, during some recreational research into another huge, dilapidated, long-vacant manufacturing space (I come up with redeeming schemes too, having once been in property management, but rarely follow through), I learned there is a shadowy, loosely affiliated group of self-dubbed "urban explorers" in town who break into these large commercial properties and see what's what.

Unfortunately, once a decade or two, one of them falls down an empty elevator shaft in the dark and ruins it for everyone.

But, yeah, there are empty, abandoned homes (enclosed air that somehow through natural law, known otherwise as making sh&t up and then agreeing to it, has become off-limits) galore, especially in eastern cities and their suburbs, and plenty of homeless, many employed.

Sorry. Absurd. Nothing we can do.

Adverse possession.

Yes, plenty of abandoned houses in urban USA, even before the mortgage meltdown. Decaying neighborhoods, where owners just walk away instead of paying property tax bills, so municipalities wind up taking "ownership", but don't really have the resources to "control".

Detroit, for example.

Plenty of squatters, but they don't make the news unless their raided as a "crack den".

Plenty of squatters in NYC in the 80s and 90s when I lived there, mostly lower East Side, also Harlem. There was an aura of avant-garde culture about it and some approval except from the powers that be that preferred them on the street. Long-standing tent communities exist on public land. Tent City NJ has its own website; they made it through Sandy okay. People were living in tents along the highways in Maryland/DC at the height of the Great Recession, not two years ago, may be still. Squatters in rural areas live in abandoned trailers and camping. More than you'd think.

Ugh posted the link I was going to point to: the long-standing legal concept of Adverse Possession, which allows a squatter to gain legal title to abandoned property if they stay there long enough, improve the property, pay taxes, and in all other ways behave like a landowner.

Adverse possession is a relic of the old English common law, and the idea is to discourage absentee landlords, and encourage profitable use of property.

I don't know that AP actually still gets used much in the US, but I wonder if it's getting a revival in light of the rash of foreclosures and evictions leaving so many houses unoccupied (and at risk of damage from weather and vandalism).

Was there much squatting in the UK before WWII? In my mind (probably from reading Four-Gated City) it was a phenomenon that arose from the bombings and dislocations of the war and continued being tolerated while people could still imagine themselves being in that situation.

Squatting was not-uncommon when I lived in Philly in the very early 80's. Empty space + not a lot of money => squatting. Plus, in the just-past-punk days, it had a cachet. It was kind of hip.

Probably nothing remotely close to 10% of the population of the city, though. Thankfully.

Don't know how common or uncommon it is now, but most likely because I'm (a) older and (b) have more money than I did 30 years ago.

Squatting is kind of a younger person's game.

Squatting was not-uncommon when I lived in Philly in the very early 80's.

I had a brief second-hand association with some squatters in West Philly in the late 80's. Even then, it was a post-punk sort of thing. (Philly had a thriving hardcore scene well into the mid-80's.) They were barely 20 at the time - punky-gothish types who did lots of acid.

There were a few houses on the block that were pretty well known to be occupied by squatters. It was somewhat peculiar to that part of town, and even then I'd say it was less than 10% of the houses, but I couldn't guess about the percentage of people.

They were really big, older row houses with front porches and high ceilings, which must have been pretty damned nice back in the day, along with the neighborhood. It was a weird scene.

Laura, I don't know what the rules are now, but when I was working for the Forest Service (very long ago), it was permissible to live on National Forest land, so long as one did not do it in Forest-Service-maintained campgrounds, nor in permanent structures, and so long as one did not cut any trees, whether dead or alive (it was okay to use fallen branches) and did not interfere with any Forest Service activity. If all or some of those rules are still in effect, the people camping on FS land near you may not be doing anything illegal. I think the term "squatting" implies "illegally", but I don't know if this is the legal position. So maybe they are not "squatting".

the long-standing legal concept of Adverse Possession, which allows a squatter to gain legal title to abandoned property

Ordinarily requires a claim of right, at least in my jurisdiction (Michigan)

Doesn't adverse possession require, in most jurisdictions, that you actually let the owner of title know what you're doing, and they don't contest it? It also requires more than simply occupying to property. You have to maintain it, generally pay property taxes, eject (other!) trespassers, and in all other respects act as a legal owner living in the property would be expected to act.

Simply squatting in an abandoned house will not generally constitute adverse possession. If you do so with any degree of secrecy at all, it absolutely won't.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Haig>Alex Haigh reduced to squatting? I thought he squat all over central america with ollie north and was otherwise 'in charge'. Then he died. Or something.

Our history is one of squatters.... from sea to shining sea....fairly vicious ones, I hear. Was the westward expansion one long case of adverse possession?

A modern day Thoreau.

First off, in England and Wales trespass on property is a tort, not a crime.
Breaking in to a property is potentially criminal, but common practice is to arrange for another party to do the actual breaking, so prosecutions of squatters on this basis are rare.

Wikipedia gives a decent summary of the law on squatting, and its recent developments in the England and Wales (note the law in Scotland is different, with trepass having been made a crime in the 19th C.):

I'm really not sure where I stand on this. Clearly, the new law protects absentee landlords of long term vacant properties (boo) in the same way it does the unfortunate homeowner who returns from holiday to find their house occupied by someone else (huzzah).

What in beyond contention is the severe shortage of housing, particularly around London. We are a relatively small and overcrowded island, and our strict planning laws inhibit housebuilding while maintaining painfully high prices.
IOW, our provision of housing, or lack thereof, is the real problem, rather than this new law.

We don't precisely have a shortage of housing, here. Just a shortage of people who can buy it. Houses people have abandoned to the banks are rotting away empty because the banks don't dare sell them at a market clearing price, for fear that adjusting the valuation on their books would render the banks instantly insolvent. So long as the house is empty and rotting, they can keep it on their books at the old value, and pretend they have assets to match their debts.

But it's all a house of cards, and getting more unstable by the month, as the real value of the housing stock evaporates due to vandalism and general wear and tear.

Nigel, thanks for the explanation and the thumbs up on the WIkipedia article. hope some other UKians can chime in as well.

just don't know about it? I can't imagine an American news personality suggesting that squatting is 'quintessentially American'. Love to hear your thoughts.

Venapro is, apparently, a hemorrhoid treatment.

I have to ask: does anybody think someone is going to read this thread, find Venapro's comment sufficiently interesting to click through on "his or her" name, be presented with an advertisement for a hemorrhoid treatment, and then say to themselves, "Hey, it's true, as it turns out the comment was utter horsesh*t, but my butt is actually kinda sore, so maybe I'll give it a try"?

That is somebody's business model. God help us all.

Maybe the Mayans were right, and the end of the world has actually arrived.

They don't expect anyone to click it, but as long as the comment sits there, it counts as a link from an authoritative, trusted site to their site, boosting their search rankings for when someone does search for their product.

I've gone in and changed both the web and the email address.

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