Squatter renovates and sells home for £540,000 after successful adverse possession claim

The property was vacant until Keith Best moved in
The property was occupied by Keith Best for years and this allowed him to gain possession via an adverse possession application (Image credit: Google Earth)

A squatter who used a Roman-era law to gain possession of a £400,000 house belonging to a former pensioner has reportedly sold it for £540,000.

Keith Best was able to move into the empty three-bedroom property after noticing it while carrying out work in Newbury Park, east London.

After living in the property for eight years and becoming its legal owner, Mr Best sold it in July 2020 after spending £150,000 renovating the house.

Why was the house empty?

The house was previously owned by Doris Curtis, who lived there with her son, Colin. Following her death in the 1980s, he continued to live there alone before moving out in 1996. Mr Best moved in soon after.

Speaking to the MailOnline, builder Mr Best, 58, claimed Mr Curtis "didn't care about the house, never went there and he didn't even know about it". 

He added: “I've been portrayed as a thief who cheated an old man out of his home but that's not true. The whole thing has been a nightmare.

“It affected my health and cost me a lot of money. I never made anything from this and yet it's being made out that I robbed a pensioner. I have not made a profit.”

Best claims he 'saved the house'

Mr Best spent £150,000 of his own money doing up the property before selling it.

Mr Best added: “I saw the house, it was vacant for years. It was falling in on itself, so I started doing it up. I never robbed anyone. I never did anything wrong. I saved the house and I'm very happy that I did because it's now being used as a family home.”

Gained ownership after adverse possession application

The UK Royal Courts of Justice

The Royal Courts of Justice awarded the property in Mr Best's favour due to his adverse possession application being granted (Image credit: Getty Images)

The legal battle for the home started in 2012 after Mr Best, who claims he spent £400,000 on legal fees, applied for ‘adverse possession’. 

This means a trespasser can win the rights to a property they do not legally own if they can demonstrate they had 'control' over it for a considerable period of time.

He was initially turned down by the Chief Land Registrar because squatting had been recently criminalised. However, this was overruled by the High Court in 2014 and previous legislation, which treated squatting as a civil matter was applied, so Mr Best was made the legal owner of the home.

Mr Best said after the judgement: "Under the law I had a right to make this house mine so if anybody has a problem with that, they should be angry at the law, not me. I've done everything by the book. Nobody was cheated and I legally got what was mine."

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.