Indian hotelier Connan Gupta wanted to completely refurbish his five-bedroom house in Camberwell, south-east London and he took a week off. Nearly 15 squatters, most of them Italian students, took advantage of his absence and occupied his £700,000 property, reports Daily Mail, London.
The jobless Italians changed the locks and have taken up residence along with their three dogs and two cats.
They claim the fact they cannot afford to rent gives them the right to take over the Victorian property in Camberwell. Police are powerless to intervene because squatting is a civil rather than criminal offence.Gupta, 40, has been forced to seek alternative accommodation and instruct a solicitor to have the intruders evicted.
He left the house on October 10 for his week off and returned on Monday to find he couldn't open the door. A squatter's rights notice was posted in a window.
‘This is just ridiculous,' he said. ‘Everything's in there. All my worldly possessions, clothes, valuables, and medication I need for a skin condition. It is hellish. I always triple-lock the house and when I went away I made sure everything was locked. It is really scary that you can go on holiday and come back and your house has been taken.
I'm profoundly shocked that this can happen.I tried to open the door and found the locks had been changed. Then I saw the note, and banged on the door saying I was the owner and a voice inside said “Just go away”. I just have to sit here and wait. It's as if the squatters have more rights than I do.'
The squatters claim the front door was open when they arrived at the house two weeks ago. One, Valentina, 26, said: ‘None of us have any money or jobs. I don't feel guilty about being here because no one else had been here for at least two years, the neighbours told us.
‘There's no sink, no running water, no electricity, no carpets and the place was filthy. All of the owner's stuff was packed away and stored. ‘I've never squatted before but when three of us found it we called our friends who are having difficulties of their own and told them about it.‘When the owner came on Monday in the morning we told him we were squatting, and he was really aggressive.
‘We'll go if the court tells us to but until then we're staying. If he wants his things he'll have to wait. If I find a job then I'll start paying rent like a normal person.'
They have turned the front room into a sixth bedroom and are using Gupta's wardrobes to store their clothes. They are also making use of his three leather sofas, sauna, hundreds of DVDs and television. An eviction hearing is expected to be held in the next two weeks.