An 81-year-old veteran was forced to spend £15,000 evicting a group of squatters from the plot of land he bought as a nest egg for his retirement.
Ex-army officer Jonathan Price, from Stokes Cross in Bristol, called in eviction lawyer Chris Sharpe to help him remove a group of people living on his property in caravans on Channel 5’s Evicted! Nightmare Tenants.
The pair were met with a hostile response from the squatters, who claimed the plot didn’t belong to Jonathan – with one shouting he wanted to start a ‘class war’ and that ‘landlords should be quaking in fear’.
Returning armed with a High Court writ and police back-up, Chris and Jonathan battled with a stubborn squatter who improvised a protest by climbing onto the roof of his caravan.
What started as a straightforward eviction soon spiralled into a 13-hour siege, in which Jonathan became the target of ‘ridicule and threats’, and protesters tried to block the mechanical lift brought in to remove the squatter.
Ex-army officer Jonathan Price, 81, from Stokes Cross in Bristol, was forced to spend £15,000 evicting a group of squatters from the plot of land he bought as a nest egg for his retirement on Evicted! Nightmare Tenants
Pictured, a high court enforcement officer arguing with one of the squatters who refused to leave, claiming that Jonathan had no legal right to the land
‘I hoped we might have enough money from the sale of the land to buy a retirement home abroad, in the south of France or Italy perhaps’, said Jonathan.
The former officer purchased the land three years ago, and found four caravans pitched there, all of which had short-term licenses that expired months ago.
However, despite their licenses running out, the group refused to leave – even when Jonathan himself offered to pay their moving costs.
’Some of them weren’t terribly happy with this arrangement’, said Jonathan. ‘One of them was very difficult, he was telling me how he was going to get all his mates down there and barricade the place.’
As police attempted to remove the squatter from the roof of the caravan, a group of protesters blocked their way
Chris, who runs specialist eviction solicitors The Landlord group, was called in for assistance, and planned to serve the squatters a court trespassing order.
‘My fear is there will be a bad apple who wants to cause trouble’, he said. ‘We understand they’re not the most friendly people.
‘You never know quite what to expect with squatters, you have some that are going to cause a problem no matter what’.
Ahead of serving the court order, Jonathan admitted he was dubious about trying to evict the squatters: ‘They’ve said: “We have rights, we’re going to stay here, we’re going to make it very difficult for you”. I’ve had enough of the hassle.’
As they arrived to the fenced off plot, the squatters refused to let them in or take the papers, knowing that they could claim they hadn’t seen notice as a way to fight the eviction.
One of the squatters began shouting over the fence insisting the pair would ‘suffer and have to take accountability’ for ‘oppressing the working class’, before saying ‘there’s no war but class war’ and that ‘landlords should be in fear and quaking’.
Two weeks after the papers were served, the pair returned, this time with a document allowing high court enforcement officers to seize the land.
The situation grew out of control situation, with the stubborn squatter improvising a protest on the top of his caravan, while shouting and swearing at Jonathan
After 12 hours of protesting, the squatter came down from the roof of the caravan, but not before Jonathan was stuck with a £15,000 bill for bailiff fees
‘They knew they were there for the short term and they’d have to go anyway’, said Jonathan on the way to the land. ‘I do sympathise with them – it’s tough losing your home’.
Chris added: ‘I do this for a living and still get apprehensive and nervous and the adrenaline starts to flow’.
After cutting through chains with pliers to make their way to the plot of land, the enforcement officers discovered only one of the caravans was occupied, and knocked on the door to tell the two squatters inside they would have to leave.
A high court enforcement officer tried his best to remain calm as he spoke with one of the squatters, who continuously shouted in his face insisting that he would call the police and that Jonathan had no legal claim to the land.
‘Come and fight us then’, said the squatter, before threatening to make ‘criminal claims’ against John and the officers and calling the situation ‘bull****’.
The law on squatting in non-residential properties
Squatting in residential buildings like a house or flat was made illegal in 2012. It can lead to 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both.
However being on another person’s non-residential property without their permission is not usually a crime.
The police can take action if squatters commit other crimes when entering or staying in a property.
- Causing damage when entering the property
- Causing damage while in the property
- Not leaving when they’re told to by a court
- Stealing from the property using utilities like electricity or gas without permission
- Not obeying a noise abatement notice
Landlords are advised to seek legal advice from a solicitor if you need help making a claim for possession.
You can remove squatters using an interim possession order (IPO) or making a claim for possession.
Insisting he did have a right to the land, Jonathan said: ‘He was trying to find excuses. He was on about me not having the right deeds and things, which I do have’.
Chris added: ‘He thinks because he was in it [the caravan] when he came here, it therefore it belongs to him, I don’t think that’s how possession works.
‘The land is owned by Jonathan, certainly not by him, it’s all very well him claiming and doubting Jonathan’s right to the land, but what we do know is he has none.’
With the situation getting out of control, the enforcement officer called in police assistance, but things continued to spiral when the squatter stood on top of his caravan in protest, continuing to swear and shout at Jonathan.
As the team began dismantling the caravans, Jonathan had a chance to look inside the ‘revolting’ caravans, discovering they were packed full of dirty dishes, empty booze bottles and cigarette butts.
Police tried their best to peacefully get the squatter to come down from the roof, with one officer saying to him: ‘You’ve made it clear what your stance is and we respect that.
‘We will make sure this gets done peacefully and you have made your views clear and you can appeal that in a court, but you can’t do it here’.
With the squatter still refusing to move and police not willing to risk pulling him down themselves, the high enforcement team called for a mechanical lift – however it was quickly intercepted by a growing team of protesters.
Seven hours later the police were no closer to evicting the squatters, with Chris saying: ‘This has turned into a circus. He has his little guard outside clapping away and encouraging him along, the fact is its not his land.’
With police eventually able to deliver the lift into the property, Jonathan was advised to go home as protesters were ‘making him a target’ and ‘aiming their vitriol’ at him.
After 12 hours of protesting, the squatter came down from the roof of the caravan, with Chris predicting he was ‘desperate for a cigarette’.
‘Surprisingly he blinked first’, said Chris. ‘We weren’t going anywhere, I mean it’s dark, he’s gone and it was peaceful. The only loser here is Jonathan, this is going to cost him a fortune.’
Despite being stuck with a £15,000 bill after paying the court and bailiff fees, Jonathan was ‘really grateful’ he had been able to get the squatters off his land.
‘He was delighted,’ said Chris, ‘He was really grateful. He had been subject to ridicule, threats and aggression by these people.
‘He kept his composure and his calm and he walked away from this with his head held high and dignity in tact.’