Landowner in France fined for theft committed by squatters

Court claims he was aware of squatters stealing electricity but did not respond to energy supplier letters

A caravan in a field in France
The squatters parked their caravans on the site. Photo for illustrative purposes only
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A man who saw squatters set up camp on a plot of land he bought in north-east France has been fined €1,000 after the squatters illegally diverted electricity from a nearby power station to supply their caravans.

Jhonny, 51, purchased the plot with the intention of building a family home on it. However, the local mairie later told him that planning permission could not be granted and he and his family moved away, leaving the land untouched.

A group of squatters moved in, parking their caravans illegally on the land in Buchères (Aube, in the Grand Est region).

Read more: Squatter in France who earns €6,000 a month evicted after six years

They dug an illegal well to collect water from the site and diverted electricity from a nearby power station without permission.

The squatters were on the site for at least eight years, between 2015 and 2023.

In that time they stole at least €10,000 worth of electricity, as well as caused damage to the supply chain, said Enedis (an EDF offshoot which manages France’s electrical grid).

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Landowner ‘did not care’

The landowner was contacted a number of times by Enedis to inform him of what was happening, but he did not respond to the letters.

The issue was taken to court, with the public prosecutor stating that the landowner was aware of the problem but did not take action. 

“He knew and he let it happen, he was not interested, and he didn’t care,” said the prosecutor during the case.

The landowner, however, said he “should have taken care of it,” and admitted his responsibility for not taking action to have the trespassers removed.

As part of his comments on the case, he offered to give the land away for free so that someone closer to the site could deal with any issues.

The court acquitted him of complicity with the squatters, but fined him €1,000 for the incident (€500 of which was suspended). 

Read more: Couple who wrecked French chateau after pretending to be buyers jailed