25 May 2007

Squatter Wins £2m Property on Hampstead Heath

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The Telegraph reports:

Breaking into the exclusive Highgate property market in north London is notoriously difficult. But yesterday a homeless man apparently did the almost-impossible, managing to secure his very own slice of prime real estate on Hampstead Heath for free.

Harry Hallowes, 70, says he has been given the title deeds to a piece of land on the edge of the heath on which he has been squatting for more than two decades. The 65ft by 131ft plot has been estimated to be worth up to £2 million.

The Land Registry’s decision marks the end of a three-year dispute between Mr Hallowes and the property developer Dwyer.

The developers originally wanted to build on the land, which forms part of the grounds of Althone House. In 2005 Dwyer, which is turning a plot of land including a former nursing home into 25 luxury flats, failed in an attempt to evict Mr Hallowes.

At a court hearing over the eviction, lawyers presented evidence that Mr Hallowes had lived on the plot for 18 years. This later became the basis for his title claim for the land. Possession of the title deeds means the plot could now be sold or passed on.

Adverse possession is a standard principle of British and American Common Law.

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