Breaking and entering - is it worth it?

According to the Court of Appeal, the answer to this question in the case of Mr Best is “yes!”.

Mr Best has emerged victorious from the Court of Appeal with the court having confirming that Mr Best is entitled to snaffle ownership of a property from the person whose name appears on the deeds.

Now you might have thought that breaking into someone’s property and living in it as a trespasser was a criminal act. Well, you would be right. That has been confirmed by the Legal Aid,  Sentencing and Punishment  of  Offenders Act 2012 which came into effect on 1 September 2012. So how did Mr Best persuade the court that it was fair for his criminal act to be rewarded?

Mr Best was a builder who was working on a residential property in 1997 when he noticed 35 Church Road, Newbury Park which was derelict and appeared to have been abandoned. He spoke to the neighbours about this property and they told him that the old lady who owned it had died and that her family did not seem to be doing anything about it.  Mr Best decided to make his move. He secured the property, repaired the roof, and worked on the property for several years as and when he had time.  He eventually moved into the property in January 2012 and applied to the Land Registry to be registered as the owner on the basis that he had acquired ten years of adverse possession.

This was where Mr Best hit a snag.  The Chief Land Registrar refused to process the application on the grounds that Mr Best had been committing a criminal offence by living in a residential property as a trespasser in breach of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The Registrar took the view that it was not possible and against public policy to acquire adverse possession on the basis of a criminal act.