Apparently the Brits have some weird laws about “squatting” that keep this from being Burglary, breaking and entering, theft, etc.
Can anybody from the UK enlighten us?
In the UK the law says that as long as there is no evidence of breaking and entering (and usually the first thing squatters do is replace the locks so the owners cannot get in, as well as fix any broken windows), and the squatter says that he believes the property was either abandoned or that he was given legal access to the property by someone who represented himself as authorized to do so, then it is a matter of civil litigation as to who is entitled to the use of the property.
The law presumes that whoever has possession of a key to the property is the rightful owner until another claimant to the property proves their title in court.
Once the real property owner wins the court case, they then have the right to initiate eviction proceedings and the squatters have 30 days to leave the property, unless they get an extension because of hardship.
Once evicted, they are not liable for any civil damages or for any criminal action - they are are free and clear.
Squatting has become a popular pastime in the UK because if squatters can get inside a home and quickly erase any evidence of breaking and entering, they have a rent-free place to live for at least three months with no legal consequences of any kind.
This is because of a wrinkle in Oregon and I believe Washington law (and probably in any number of other states too), which provides that if an unoccupied home is advertised for sale and you agree to pay the seller an amount of money or credit within the price range and they accept the offer, you have the right to move in.
Typically it is a bogus offer made in the form of an IOU sent to the office of the seller as a piece of return-receipt requested mail.
By the owner signing the receipt, the "buyer" claims in court that the offer was accepted, they post 'no trespassing' signs and have any representative of the seller arrsted if they try to reclaim the property, and it can take months to prove that the IOU was worthless and not real consideration for the property.
Certain lawyers specialize in keeping these claims going for over a year in exchange for a nominal fee.
However, there will be civil lawsuits and sometimes criminal prosecution for fraud, unlike the UK.