Today was meant to be a quiet day as I had paperwork to catch up on…it ended up being far more exciting!!
11am the phone rings and it’s the estate agent who are selling our flat in London. She had been round the flat this morning with the buyer to measure up for his furniture and stuff as we are due to complete next month.
“Sam”, she says “I couldn’t get into the flat – have you changed the locks?”
Me: “No, why would I do that you have all the keys and you need access”
“Well” She says “I just wondered if you had a friend staying or had let it for a short while as there was a bed in there and some groceries on the kitchen worktop”
“WHAT????” I reply
“OH” she is clearly taken aback “So you haven’t got a friend staying?”
“OH MY GOD” I reply. “Right, I’ll get down there now”
I put down the phone and think SHIT!!!! What am i going to do?? In that moment I realised I had squatters! I called a couple of friends who are in property to get their thoughts – no-one had dealt with squatters, but they were all clearly concerned at my situation.
I decided that I would go to the property and get rid of them!
I called a locksmith and a security company so that I could shutter the property once I had access. I explained the situation to all of them and I could tell from their tone of voice they were not hopeful at my chances of success – all of them told me the cancellation charges if the job didn’t go ahead – that is – if I couldn’t get rid of the squatters.
I made the 2 hour trip to the flat (London traffic being what it is!). En route I got a friend to google about squatters rights and what could be done. In the meantime I had another one of my friends calling me begging me not to go:
“Sam, what if they’re all high on drugs and they try and stab you – no property is worth that”
She was right, but I chose not to listen and I told her as much.
I arrived at the property at 2pm. From the front I saw the kitchen windows were open…SHIT!
I didn’t have the security fob to get in the front, so I went round the back and let myself in the garden. All the windows were open…DOUBLE SHIT!
I looked through the windows (I could see the lounge and the bedroom from the back garden) I could see a sleeping bag and stuff in one room and loads of furniture in another…then I saw the outline of a person. I knocked on the window.
“Let me in” I said and motioned to the door.
The person (a girl) looked out of the window at me and went to the door. She opened the door. I grabbed the key off her.
“What are you doing in my house? Get your stuff and get OUT”
She was shocked and walked to the bedroom away from me. “Me not speak English” She said
“Don’t try and play that with me” I replied. “Get your stuff and get out now – this is MY house” She got her phone and started calling – in that moment I looked down and I saw 5 pairs of shoes all orderly lined up….
“OH MY GOD” I thought. How many people are here….who is she calling…how many people are about to arrive with just me here on my own!!!
I called 999…I needed police back up!
“Please come and help me, someone has broken into my flat, the person’s here now, she claims she doesn’t speak English and there are 5 pairs of shoes here. I am scared she is calling more people – I don’t know how many people are here or are coming and I am here on my own”
Within seconds of putting down the phone 5 men arrive in the back garden.
I don’t know where I found my nerve…
“What the hell do you think you are doing” I shout at them. “You do not live here, this is MY house, you have broken in, you are trespassing, you are illegal and you are LEAVING. Get your stuff and get out”
They stand and look at me (they are all tall, big men and I am 5 foot 2 but I am FURIOUS)
They talk amongst themselves in a foreign language.
I am having none of it:
“There’s no point you standing there talking and pretending you don’t understand me. Get your stuff and get out of MY house”
They realise I am not kidding, they start collecting their things.
“The police are on their way” I shout
3 minutes later a riot van turns up, sirens blasting and 6 police men run to the flat.
The squatters are collecting their belongings and the police are wonderful. They start asking the squatters what they’re doing, how they got in and for their passports etc. The squatters say they are leaving.
I hand the squatters their belongings – it was surreal. They thank me as I pass them their blow up mattress, blankets, bags of foods and their hoover!!
The police ask them to leave one-by-one and search them on their way out to make sure they have nothing belonging to the property.
The head policeman takes me to one side:
“Look” he says “You are very lucky, they are leaving. Yes we can see they have broken into the property, but as you didn’t see it and nor did we and because none of them are admitting to it, it is very difficult for us to arrest them”
“Yes I understand” I reply
“At least they have gone…you are very lucky. People who know the system will put up a notice and then we can’t even enter the property. Think yourself lucky” He says
“I do” I agree
The policemen start squirting antibacterial handwash over their hands and offer me some…then they get a call on the radio – there is a women screaming from their radios
“We’ve got to go” they shout, then run from the flat into their riot van
I am left in the flat with the locksmith who has now changed all the locks
“You are so lucky” he says “I have been to a few of these and the squatters don’t leave. You handled that really well. I cannot believe that she opened the door to you!”
I agree again – I realise I am very lucky indeed.
And to make sure I don’t get any future problems I secured the property with huge metal shutters just 30 minutes later :)