In 2012, Keith Best officially moved into an empty house in east London with his family. He had previously renovated it for several years. Eventually, the builder went to court to seek permanent ownership of the terraced house in Newbury Park, which was then worth £400,000 (around €500,000) - and he was right. Even though the house already belonged to someone else. But how did it happen?
As the Daily Mail exclusively reports, the house originally belonged to a woman who lived there with her son. The mother died at the end of the 1980s at the age of 88 - without leaving a will. Her divorced son stayed there until he moved into sheltered accommodation in 1996. Although he continued to pay license fees, he rarely visited the property and rarely maintained it. The 54-year-old Best apparently saw this as his opportunity.
Shortly after moving into the house with his family, he filed a claim for hostile possession. Until September 2012, squatting was not considered a criminal offense in England and squatters were able to take possession of a property by living in it for a period of time - which is still the case today under certain conditions.
According to the report, Best said in court at the time: "I started working on the property in 1997. I then invested time and money taking care of the house. Since 2001, I have treated the house as my own ."
His application was initially rejected because it was only submitted weeks after the law was changed. But an appeals court ruled in his favor in 2014, ruling that the previous legislation should apply.
The pensioner, who had previously lived in the house with his mother and who died in 2018 at the age of 80, tried to take legal action against it. However, since he had forgotten to register as administrator of her estate after his mother's death, he had no legal right to fight for her house.
Best has since sold the property for almost €630,000 (£540,000).
Sources: “Daily Mail”, gov.uk