Advisory Service for Squatters
The Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) is a non-profit group based in London, UK, run by volunteers which aims to provide practical advice and legal support for squatters. It was founded in 1975, having grown out of the Family Squatters Advisory Service. After being based for many years at 2 St.Paul's Road in Islington, ASS moved its offices to Angel Alley (84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX), the same building as Freedom Press (U.K.).
In the late 1960s, the Family Squatters Advisory Service (FSAS) was founded in London, England, to help defend the rights of squatters.
However, in the 1973 case of McPhail vs. Persons Unknown, the Court of Appeals stated that a landowner could re-enter a squatted property and use reasonable force to evict those occupying the property, while remaining exempt from the Forcible Entry Act. Thus, as a result of this ruling, all power lay in the hands of the possessor of the property, rather than the occupants. This case sparked a division amongst those fighting for squatters' rights at the FSAS, for new-wave advocates thought that the FSAS did not do enough to protect the unlicensed squatters' rights.
That division gave rise to a different organization called the All London Squatters (ALS). The ALS was geared more toward direct action and was open to licensed and unlicensed squatters. ALS was perceived as more militant. As tensions heightened in London, FSAS split even further. The division between those for and opposed to unlicensed squatters grew deeper, and by 1975, divisions within the group led to its dissolution. In its wake grew a new organization called the Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS).
A spokesperson for the group said in 2003 "Today's squatters are highly organised and efficient. Many have full-time work, and drug problems are rare."
ASS publishes the Squatters' Handbook which both serves as a guide for how and where to squat and explains the legal issues involved. 150,000 copies have been sold since 1976 and the thirteenth edition was published in 2009.
Since the first copy was published in 1976, there have been thirteen subsequent editions, which can be purchased for a small fee from the Advisory Service. The Squatters' Handbook details guidelines on how to find property to squat in, what to do in confrontations with the police, how to maintain the property and set up temporary plumbing, and generally how to survive while squatting. According to the Advisory Service website, the Squatters' Handbook is in high demand, which speaks to the rising number of squatters in this current period of global recession.
In June 2008 the ASS was subject to controversy when the Daily Mail reported on The Squatters Handbook. Eric Pickles, Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar, criticised councils for publishing The Handbook and the ASS contact details on council websites. He said “Homeowners will be horrified that town halls are giving squatters the green light to break into law-abiding citizens’ homes ... Promoting such lawlessness is breathtaking, but is sadly an indictment of social breakdown that has become rife under Labour and the prevalence of 'human rights' laws. This revelation coupled with fact violent crime is doubling blows apart Labour's claim to be the party of law and order.”
In response the ASS issued a press release explaining that "Councils signpost ASS on their websites because we offer free advice to homeless people and those with housing problems."
In the press release the ASS also stated that "Squatters only occupy empty properties. In those cases where a mistake is made and there is an occupier, the squatters can be quickly removed by legal mechanisms." and that "squatting mostly happens in housing that’s been left to rot, whether by councils or private owners." The ASS also stated that it "does not promote lawlessness, as squatting is still legal. We help disadvantaged people to find housing, to help themselves when no-one else will. We often recommend that people who are eligible for Priority Need Housing apply to their local Council."
The ASS further stated that "Human Rights laws are generally unavailable to squatters as a defence." And that "the real issue is the difficulty of getting housed, due to profiteering through privatisation and gentrification, which leads to unaffordable rents and the need to take personal action."
- "Advisory Service for Squatters - About Us". Squatter.org.uk. 2005-05-11. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
- Law and the Underprivileged, Smith, Chris and Hoath, David C. 1975, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, London
- Squatting: The Real Story>Squatting: The Real Story, Wates, Nick and Wolmar, Christian, 1980, Bay Leaf Books
- Fallon A Squatters are back, and upwardly mobile in 'The Independent on Sunday' October 12, 2003
- Advisory Service for Squatters - SQUATTING IS STILL LEGAL