Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Squatter sells property for £540,000 after winning home for free

A squatter who won a £400,000 home that belonged to a pensioner thanks to a “quirky” ancient Roman law has sold it for a £140,000 profit, it has been claimed.

Builder Keith Best started occupying a home in Newbury Park, Ilford, northeast London, while working a job nearby in 1997, an act a judge confirmed was criminal trespass.

But he won the home – worth approximately £400,000 at the time – from Colin Curtis, who had previously lived there with his mother, thanks to a forgotten law.

Mr Curtis had moved out years before and left the property largely vacant and hadn’t returned in the years following, allowing Mr Best to renovate the home and even move in his wife and child in 2012.

He later applied to register the title of the property and was allowed to, thanks to the time-honoured law of adverse possession. Mr Best applied for the title in 2012, with his lawyer citing the little-known law – which is also known as squatters title – as a reason he should possess the home.

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Squatters title dates back to Roman Law and allows people to become the lawful proprietor of a good in their possession “if the original owner didn’t show up after some time”.

A registrar attempted to block Mr Best’s application in November 2012, as squatting had become a criminal offence under section 144(1) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPOA).

High Court judge Mr Justice Ouseley said he was living “in breach of the criminal law” at the time following the act’s passage in September but confirmed section 144 did not prevent him from claiming adverse possession.

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The builder was granted the property and, according to reports, has since sold it for a significant profit. According to the Daily Mail, the home sold for £540,000 to its current owner, Atiq Hayat, 35, who said Mr Best was the legal owner whose name had appeared on all the legal documents.

The new homeowner said: “His name appeared on all the documents related to this house, and everything was done properly, and we have nothing to worry about. I never met Mr Best, but my sisters did twice when they came to see the property. It was in a very good condition, and he seemed like a very genuine man.

“The sale was done in the proper legal way through solicitors, so we didn’t have a lot to do with him.” Mr Hayat claimed his family did not know about the home’s controversial past and that it didn’t “make sense” that the courts had “just allowed him to become the legal owner”.

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