Hotelier leaves home for a week so it can be decorated . . . then 15 jobless Italian squatters move in
By TAMARA COHEN
Last updated at 8:08 AM on 21st October 2010
Add to My Stories
Connan Gupta went to stay with his sister while his house was decorated and returned to find squatters had moved in
In the middle of completely refurbishing his five-bedroom house, Connan Gupta felt he deserved a week off.
It is a decision he is now regretting because 15 squatters took advantage of his short absence to occupy the £700,000 property.
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, South-East London.
Police are powerless to intervene because squatting is a civil rather than criminal offence.
Robber caught on CCTV locked up for two years... after his FATHER shops him to police
Mr Gupta, a 40-year-old hotelier, 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.’
Italian students changed the locks of the house and said they couldn't afford to pay rent while they were studying in London
The kitchen area of the house the squatters are occupying. There is no sink so the squatters wash kitchenware in the bathrooms
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.
Brazen: Some of the squatters smile for the camera in the back room of the house where all their possessions have been placed
Over-run: A pet cat belonging to the squatters (bottom right) makes itself at home in one of the bedrooms of the £700,000 five-bedroom property
‘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 Mr 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.