In a surprising turn of events, a squatter who took over an empty house, once owned by a pensioner, and won the legal right to become its owner, has recently sold the property for a staggering sum of £540,000. This remarkable story of property ownership and legal battles unfolded in Newbury Park, East London, involving Keith Best, the squatter, and Colin Curtis, the previous owner of the three-bedroom semi-detached house.



The tale begins with Colin Curtis, who had lived in the house with his mother for many years. However, in the late 1990s, Colin moved out, leaving the property vacant. It was during this period of abandonment that Keith Best, a builder by trade, discovered the empty home while working in the neighborhood. Seeing an opportunity, Mr. Best began treating the property as his own and embarked on a mission to renovate it to its former glory. In 2012, he, along with his wife and child, formally moved into the house.

A few months later, Keith Best decided to take a bold step and applied to the courts for permanent possession of the property. At the time, the house was estimated to be worth around £400,000. What makes this story even more astonishing is that Mr. Best’s claim for ownership was based on the legal principle of adverse possession, where a trespasser can gain legal rights to a property they do not legally own if they can demonstrate “control” over the property for an extended period of time.

The legal battle that ensued was both contentious and unprecedented. Initially, Mr. Best’s application for adverse possession was denied by the Chief Land Registrar, as his claim coincided with the criminalization of squatting under the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act. However, this decision was later overturned by the High Court in 2014. Mr. Justice Ouseley ruled that the Registrar’s initial decision was “founded on an error of law” and that the previous legislation, which treated squatting as a civil matter, should apply, ultimately granting Mr. Best legal ownership of the house.

Colin Curtis, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 80, launched a counterclaim in an attempt to regain ownership of the property. However, Judge Elizabeth Cooke dismissed his claim, citing that he was not a registered administrator of his mother’s estate and had no legal standing to fight for her home.



The legal saga surrounding this property highlights the complexities of property ownership and the legal framework surrounding adverse possession. It also raises questions about the fairness and equity of such legal provisions, especially when properties are left vacant for extended periods.

Mr. Curtis, who had lived in the house for years, was left with feelings of injustice and bewilderment. He once expressed, “It’s not fair. The law is an ass. It’s like someone getting in your car then saying it’s theirs because they’re sitting in it.”

The house’s history is a testament to the hardships faced by Mr. Curtis, whose son and daughter tragically passed away at young ages. Despite these challenges, both he and his mother are fondly remembered by their former neighbors, who still harbor resentment over how the law allowed Mr. Best to gain ownership of the property.

In a surprising twist, the house was recently sold to Atiq Hayat, 35, who confirmed that the property’s sale was conducted through legal channels. He praised the condition of the house and mentioned that Keith Best’s name appeared on all the relevant documents. The Hayat family, unaware of the property’s controversial past, has carried out significant renovations, including building a back and roof extension, increasing the property’s value to approximately £650,000.



This extraordinary story leaves many questions lingering about property rights, legal loopholes, and the moral and ethical implications of adverse possession. It serves as a stark reminder that the legal system can sometimes produce outcomes that defy common sense and leave individuals like Colin Curtis feeling as though they have been wronged by the very laws meant to protect them.

In conclusion, the tale of Keith Best’s journey from squatter to legal property owner is a remarkable and contentious chapter in the annals of property law. While Mr. Best has profited from his actions, the story highlights the need for a thorough review of the legal provisions surrounding adverse possession and their impact on individuals like Colin Curtis, who lost a family home under circumstances that many find hard to comprehend. The property, once a source of contention and legal battles, now stands as a testament to the importance of responsible property ownership and the value of preserving family legacies.

By AdminNN

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