Guillaume Kasbarian: “Squatting is a crime. The squatter must not be protected, he must be punished. »

March 04, 2024 / Jerome Goulon

In the middle of the winter break, we met Guillaume Kasbarian, then Renaissance deputy for Eure-et-Loir then became, after our interview, Minister of Housing. At the initiative of the anti-squatting law adopted in July 2023, which allows express expulsion of squatters, he returns to the statistics of squatter expulsions and the role of the media in the project he carried without giving in to pressure.

Interview: The new law toughens the penalties faced by squatters. Is it much more severe?
Guillaume Kasbarian: Previously, the penalty provided for the offense of squatting at home was limited to one year's imprisonment and a fine of €15. With the law that I introduced and which was promulgated this year, we have considerably strengthened this sanction, extending the sentence to 000 years of imprisonment and a fine of €3. At the same time, we have created a new offense, distinct from home squatting, targeting the squatting of commercial or economic buildings, now punishable by a penalty of two years' imprisonment and a €45 fine. The penalty cannot be the same when you enter someone else's home or a business whose premises are not in use. 

Have the remedies for evicting squatters evolved? 
Yes. This law is the culmination of a long legislative process which began in 2007 with the creation of an article: 38 DALO. This article already authorized a rapid expulsion of squatters via a dedicated prefectural procedure. However, we realized that this procedure had been used very little between 2007 and 2020 for two reasons: the absence of deadlines required from the prefect and the absence of obligation to act. Plus, the procedure seemed way too complicated. This is why, in 2020, I introduced, through a major simplification law, known as the “ASAP law”, measures aimed at strengthening the use of article 38 DALO. On the one hand, so that the concept of squat can be applied to the home in the broad sense, whether it is a main residence, a secondary residence or a pied-à-terre, which was not the case until now. On the other hand, to impose deadlines for action on the prefect. Previously, the prefect could be contacted, but did not always respond to requests or take the necessary measures within the allotted time frame. From now on, the prefect must take up the subject and respond within 48 hours. He can no longer oppose the request of the owner or even the tenant who is a victim of squatting in the event of seizure.

Can you explain to us the steps to take if we find ourselves with our accommodation squatted?
In case of squatting, the approach is now much simpler. One, you will immediately file a complaint with the gendarmerie or police near your home and prove that you are the owner or tenant of the squatted accommodation. Two, you contact the prefect. From that moment, the prefect has 48 hours tops to respond to you. If the police or gendarmerie report confirms the situation of squatting in your home, the prefect immediately triggers the procedure of article 38 DALO and gives notice to the squatter to leave. Concretely, he will inform the squatter that he has 24 hours to leave the premises. If 24 hours later, the squatter is still there, the prefect then immediately triggers action by the police and orders his expulsion. As you can see, this procedure is relatively simple and quick. In fact, it is not a judicial procedure but a prefectural one.

How can the police certify that it is a squat? 
The first step is to file a complaint. Then, the police come to your house, see that there is someone at your home and put this finding in their report. Even if you do not have your rent receipt with you or proof that it is indeed your home, the tax services may be contacted and able to certify this. We really made the process easier.

Is it up to the tenant to take steps with the police, or is it up to the landlord to take care of it? 
It is up to the occupant of the property to carry out the procedures. If the accommodation is rented, it is up to the tenant to take the necessary steps, but the owner can always help. 

Let's say someone comes into my house and changes the lock. With this new law, you guarantee me that the situation will be resolved within how long? 
In the event of proven squatting, the situation can be resolved between 48 hours and 72 hours from the moment you lodged a complaint: the prefect has 48 hours to respond to you, and can call in the police within 24 hours to evict the squatter. Afterwards, there may always be slightly longer delays depending on the situation, but overall we remain on a procedure which allows you to find your home within a week or ten days at most. 

What are the real numbers of people who are victims of squatting? 
The latest figures we have are from 2021: we had around 200 proven cases of squats. In 2022, there was no counting. However, I will make sure to have an accurate assessment shortly. 

Owners who are victims of a squat may be tempted to resolve the problem themselves. Do you advise against it?
You can't take someone out yourself by force. We must respect the law. If you force the door yourself and take the squatter's belongings to put them outside, you risk being fined and penalized. Given that we obviously cannot take justice into our own hands, we really wanted to speed up the procedure as much as possible. If you have any doubts, you type “38 DALO” on Google, the procedure is explained, it takes less than a page and you can apply it.

Primary and secondary residence, does the law apply in the same way? 
Yes, protection extends to any place constituting the home. I made this clarification myself in 2020. At the time, my motivation lay in a particular case involving a retired couple who discovered that their second home, a small apartment in the south of France, was squatted. The prefect then replied: “It’s a second home, I cannot apply the express eviction procedure”. It is precisely this completely incomprehensible situation that prompted me to propose a change in the law. Since 2020, I can confirm that the procedure applies to both the main residence and the secondary residence, without any distinction.

What to do if your home has been damaged by a squatter? 
Systematically file a complaint when housing has been damaged. Not only for the act of squatting which is punishable by law, but for any damage which may have taken place in your home. In the event of damage such as squatting, there is only one solution: file a complaint!

Are the winter break and the anti-squat law incompatible?  
It is important to remember that squatters do not benefit from the winter break. This is an addition since the Elan law passed in 2018. The law applies to everyone without distinction. Even if the person who breaks into your home has a child, they are subject to the law like everyone else. When the situation warrants it, particularly when there are young children, the prefects try to propose rehousing solutions. This is particularly why you have emergency accommodation centers. Squatting is a crime. The squatter must not be protected, he must be punished. 

Do certain associations have pressure tactics that would allow them to avoid enforcing the law?
The longer you delay, the more you expose yourself to the squatter or associations trying to prevent the intervention of the police, and this by all means. Physical first, with a risk of violence or injury which would delay the expulsion, then legal, if the squatter seeks to obtain a reprieve from the prefect's decision through legal proceedings. Furthermore, if you let the situation drag on, the squatter can go to the judge and try to demonstrate in every possible way that the prefect should grant him additional time before proceeding with his eviction. Generally speaking, the longer you delay in taking this step with the prefect, the more you expose yourself to the risk of obstacles. In this type of situation, time is always on the side of the squatter. 

As a result, squatters also have the possibility of contacting the prefecture or a judge to request a delay?
No, squatters do not have the possibility of contacting the prefecture to request additional time. On the other hand, they always have the choice, like any litigant, to contact a judge, to explain that the prefect has misinterpreted the law, that he does not have to use article 38 DALO in this situation, or that he should take more time, or that he was abusive in this expulsion decision. We are in a state of law, every litigant has the right to challenge the use made of the law and to go to court. The faster it is, the better it is for everyone, except for the squatters. My goal is not to protect squatters. 

As an MP, do you think that the media coverage of this type of subject is changing the laws? 
Of course, this plays a role in several ways. The cases of squats which have been the subject of media coverage challenge us, arouse our attention, and thus encourage us to explore the subject in greater depth. Personally, it was the media coverage of certain cases that sparked an interest in me to improve the law and respond to unjust situations. On the other hand, when you pull the thread of media coverage, you realize that it is the tree that hides the forest, that there are other similar cases of squatting which have not been publicized, but that They need to be treated because they are just as serious. You also realize other problems, such as rental arrears. This is why, in 2023, I developed this law addressing not only the issue of squats, but also that of rental arrears. We have divided by three the legal deadlines which apply to tenants in arrears, because I consider that we cannot ask landlords to stay for two, three, four or five years with a tenant who is in default. stopped paying….

Do you have any advice for avoiding squatters?
To avoid squatters, what I already advise is not to leave a home completely empty of furniture, so that there is no ambiguity, and that your home is considered a home. Do not leave your house unlocked, this seems obvious, but also check that the locks work, that the land is fenced and that you have not left your home open. When you realize that there is a squatter, immediately file a complaint with the police and the gendarmerie. The first instinct should not be to say “I’m calling a journalist or I’m going to post a message on social networks”. You must file a complaint immediately. And finally, contact the prefect! Rest assured, the law is on your side and you will be rid of the squatters in a few days! 

After this stage of the anti-squatter law, what do you think is imperative to reform? 
France is facing a housing crisis, particularly in areas with high economic and tourist activity. A considerable number of people are having difficulty finding available housing. This situation is exacerbated by a demand crisis, where many people are denied access to property due to high interest rates. It is imperative to initiate reforms, because housing represents the first constrained expenditure for households, rent or the repayment of the mortgage loan constituting the first deduction from the salary of the French. The subject of housing is a crucial subject for purchasing power. What we have accomplished so far is just one step among many steps needed for comprehensive housing reform. It must be carried out in the coming months, because it is essential for citizens' purchasing power and quality of life. The government also plans to present legal texts on the question of housing at the end of the first half of the year. I am impatiently awaiting these texts, because there is still much to do to meet the expectations of the French. 

Interview conducted by Marie Giancani