An enforcement officer served the squatters with a possession order from the landlord
Most recently Phil Northmore and Ryan Roberts had been squatting in the vacant former Polish shop, after being moved on from the Barclays bank building next door.
But now the friends, along with a few other squatters, have been told to leave and not come back.
On Wednesday an enforcement officer visited the squat and served them with an ‘Interim Possession Order’, giving them 24 hours to leave.
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said although it is not a criminal matter, they were made aware of the situation.
“They [the squatters] left without any trouble,” the spokesperson confirmed.
The Herald went inside the squat in the former Barclays bank branch in October and met Phil and Ryan, who had climbed in through an open window.
Phil, who is now living in York, said they gave the enforcement officer “no problems” and gladly moved out within the deadline.
“There is a lot of stigma behind squatting,” he said on the phone from York. “People just don’t understand.”
The local neighbourhood beat manager for Devon and Cornwall Police said many squats are attached to anti-social behaviour, and it is then the police will get involved.
But they said at the time both Phil and Ryan had always been cooperative.
“But if they are causing anti-social behaviour and we get complains then we will deal with those issues.
“We make the landlords aware of the issue, and it is their job to go through the courts and attempt to obtain a court order.”
Although it has been widely reported that recent changes to the law make squatting in residential premises a criminal offence for the first time, this is not strictly true.
Plymouth-based solicitors Thompson and Jackson explain: “Refusing to leave a property when requested by a ‘displaced residential occupier’ has been a criminal offence for more than 30 years,” they say on their website, “and the theft of someone else’s electricity etc and causing damage to a property are also criminal acts.
“The new laws on squatting only apply to residential buildings, not land in general, and they only apply to those who are living or intending to live in the property in which they squat, not to transient occupiers.
“If a property you own is occupied by squatters, persuading the police to take action can be a difficult job and it is crucially important to be able to demonstrate conclusively your right to take action to recover your property. Do not be surprised if the squatters claim that you have entered into a lease with them, and be prepared to refute such claims and have the necessary proof available at the beginning.”
Because of this, Phil and Ryan have no problem entering an empty building – of which there of many on Mutley Plain – and making it their home, however temporary.
When they were squatting in the former Barclays bank branch they pinned up bunting and fairy lights, created makeshift bedrooms and even had a table and chairs.
Phil, who has served a tour in Afghanistan in the military, said: “Most [of the empty buildings a squatter would make their home] are insecure with windows open, and that’s how we get in. No one comes round to check them, they just leave them.”
“This is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, so we didn’t actually attend.
“They [the squatters] went without any trouble. There were six people in the property at the time.”