Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Court hands squatter £200,000 council house
Lambeth Council: Branded "incompetent" by judge
A squatter has been awarded legal ownership of a house valued at £200,000 in south London.
The High Court decision has enraged neighbours because Mr Ellis has paid no rent or council tax for the property.
Leader of Lambeth Council, Jim Dixon, was contrite, and said: "It's up to the council to manage all its assets properly and clearly this has not happened.
"We need to learn the lessons from that and ensure it does not happen again."
'It's all wrong'
The move under the 1980 Limitation Act, which gives legal title to a property if someone lives in it unchallenged for 12 years, has sparked fears of copycat "squatters' rights" cases across the country.
Neighbours of Mr Ellis in Brixton's Strathleven Road expressed their anger at the lack of action from the local authority to prevent him gaining possession.
'Good luck to him'
Eileen Cars, 78, said: "I think it is all wrong - we have got to pay our rent and we are pensioners. It is the council's fault for allowing this - if I miss my rent they would get me out soon enough."
Housewife Fiona Massari, 33, wished "good luck to the guy that is living there".
She said: "The council should not have let them get into a dilapidated state so they could not be rented out and so that people can squat in them.
"Lambeth are paying for taking the easy option and instead of paying the money to redo the house, they preferred to try and sell it.
"Now they have lost £200,000.
Mother-of-five Amanda Delaney, a tenant in the street for 13 years, said: "Good luck to him, I am a bit angry only because I have five children and two bedrooms.
"But I am not angry at him, I am angry that the council has allowed the situation to go on so long. I've got nothing against him. He is a nice person and says hello when you see him."
Engineer Jason Taylor, 33, who bought his neighbouring home five years ago, said: "If the council are stupid enough to lose a house for 16 years and then realise they have not done anything about it then it is their own fault.
"They have had ample time to try and recover it."