What is Squatting?
Squatting consists of legally occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use. If a building is left empty and unused a group of people may occupy it as long as they can find a way of entering the building without committing criminal damage. Once they have control of the building (can control who can enter/exit the building) the building is considered a squat.
Lots of people squat for lots of different reasons. Some people, left homeless due to the social inequalities that exist in our society, choose to by bypass council housing lists and take matters into their own hand. Other people do not agree with the standard landlord/tenant system and decide to live in their own way. There are also people who squat buildings to create free, open and autonomous zones for alternative projects like: Free Shops, art galleries, bookshops, social centres (like this one), bike workshops and other such projects as they, do not want their neighbourhoods to deteriorate with empty buildings becoming derelict, when using them prevents them from falling into disrepair.
Isn’t Squatting Illegal?
Contrary to popular belief, squatting is still legal. As long as you do not cause criminal damage in order to enter a building, it is completely legal to squat. Squatters are protected by Section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act (see poster to your left). Squatters are eligible to a lot of the same rights as other householders; e.g. the right to privacy, rubbish collection, postal delivery, social security and essential services like water and electricity.
How Can I Find Out More?
The Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) publish a handbook for squatters which outlines the hows any whys of squatting as well as explaining the legal situation in-depth. The Squatters Handbook is available from ASS off their website: http://www.squatter.org.uk. Alternatively you can ask them to put you in contact with your local squatting group. The local group in Bristol is Bristol Housing Action Movement (BHAM). They meet weekly, every Monday, and can be contacted on: 07833100399. Also feel free to speak to members of the household, they will probably be more than happy to share their experiences and advice.