How to start a squat

If you’re looking to move or have done so, you’ve probably opened D*main or R*alestate.com and been amazed at housing prices. Indeed, Sydney’s property market is one of the most expensive in the world and median house prices are up a third on the previous year. Of course, part of this increase will result in rent.

But frankly, shit. Here’s how to put a roof over your head without paying a rich cat’s mortgage. Here’s how to set up a squat.

Step One: Understand the Legal Implications

In New South Wales, several aspects of the squatting process are illegal. Under the Land Protection Act included, it is illegal to enter “enclosed land without the consent of the owner, occupier or person apparently responsible for such land” or to remain “on such land after being required to do so by the owner, occupier or or the person apparently responsible for these lands leave these lands”. If you are seriously considering a squat, you should familiarize yourself with the relevant legislation (including the above).

Step two: Choose your new home

Despite Sydney’s record rental vacancy rates, finding an empty building is relatively simple. Think how empty and depressing Parramatta Road is. I will eat my shoes if some of these lots are ever filled. To spy on a vacant building, wander the suburbs looking for overgrown gardens, overflowing mailboxes, and shattered windows. Ask locals if the place is empty; let’s say it’s for a geography project. Or just be honest with the neighbors – if they understand your plight, they’ll be less likely to report. It’s also worth checking whether it’s listed online for sale or rent (and for how long) to assess whether it will remain vacant.

Third step: find out who owns it

Fucking someone is more enjoyable when you know their name. Most importantly, the landlord is the only person who can legally make you leave, either directly or through the police. To identify this bastard, search the mailbox for mail addressed to the owner. If all else fails, check the Land Titles Office website or go in person to 175 Liverpool St. Then politely ask for the registered plan number and listed owner. From there, assess the likelihood of the landlord noticing you and/or kicking you out. If the owner has a fragile public image, they may not want delinquents occupying their property. You can also take the information to the local council to see if there has been development approval.

Fourth step: “Enter”

It’s usually easy, but that might be where you get caught. Breaking and entering is a crime, so be subtle. Wear overalls and find your way inside during the day; people are more suspicious when things go wrong overnight. Check windows, doors, skylights and paths made by former squatters. Watch a video on how to dislodge windows and doors. Either way, you’ll probably need a crowbar, a screwdriver, and at least one other person. You can remove a few tiles to enter tile-roofed buildings from above. If you have to break a window, clean it and repair it as soon as possible because this constitutes proof of “breakage” in the event of a break-in. Above all, if the police show up, only give them your name until you get legal advice.

Step Five: Secure Your Home

Congratulations, you’re part of it! Now is the time to change the locks. You can simply replace the barrel at your local Bunnings with something like a Lockwood. It can also be a good time to grab everything you’ll need for repairs and a big data plan to stream all the DIY videos you’re about to watch. Check for broken copper and PVC pipes or leaky faucets and roofing. During the first few weeks you will want to work on it with others to be safe. If the police or the landlord intervene, tell them the door was open; never admit you broke in. That’s why you fixed that window earlier.

Sixth step: Electricity, gas, water, internet

If the connections are still intact, they can’t be legally denied to you (except maybe the internet). Many service providers will likely make acquiring these services frustrating, so be polite but assertive. You may have to tell a bloody story about why you need electricity or gas if they ask for a lease (which you obviously don’t have). Consider: I have COVID-19 and cannot retrieve it from my old home where it is stored. Open the water lines to the front of the property if you can. Call Sydney Water to set up an account if that doesn’t work. Internet can be a little more difficult to connect, depending on when the property was abandoned. I would recommend a 4G or 5G modem as they can be installed anywhere.

Step Seven: Enjoy

The squat provides a level of autonomy rarely seen by non-owners. Make the place yours, but prepare for eviction. But remember, if it’s not the owner, his authorized henchmen, or the police with their direct orders, you can tell them to fuck.

So go ahead and claim your right to the city. There is nothing you can take that is worth more than the commons that have already been stolen.

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