Housing minister Grant Shapps told The Daily Telegraph that the regulations were ‘slamming the door in the face of squatters.’

Currently squatting is considered a matter for the civil courts, and homeowners have to prove the squatters have trespassed before they can be evicted. But from 1 September it will be a criminal matter, and a homeowner can simply complain to the police who can take action and arrest the squatters.

The minister added that he expects the police to act promptly following a complaint.

‘This is one of those things where, for too long, hard-working people have faced an eternal battle just to get their home back. What it means, the event of stepping over the threshold of your house, going into your house when you go away for the weekend or whatever…when they walk into your house, the moment they walk in with the intention of squatting, that is when they commit the criminal offence,” he said.

However the new law has caused concern for some. Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, said the new offence could leave vulnerable people facing jail or a fine they can’t afford.

She said: “It will do nothing to address the underlying reasons why vulnerable people squat in the first place – their homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

“Ultimately the government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them.”

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