Squatting is when someone knowingly enters a residential building as a trespasser and lives there, or intends to live there. There are estimates that there are approximately 50,000 squatters in the UK.
It is no surprise that the concern for owners of commercial (non-residential) properties, especially if they are vacant, is that this new law has made such properties more of a target for squatters now than before. There have been calls to widen the scope to include non-residential properties too. Vacant pubs, offices and warehouses are particularly considered to be vulnerable, and certainly in VPS’ experience there has been an increase in requests about squatting by our clients who ask us to manage these types of empty properties for them.
Top 5 Tips to prevent squatting:
In terms of protecting such assets, the new law has meant that the five good practice steps for owners to take for vacant property are even more important to adhere too:
- When a property becomes vacant, act quickly to protect it. A risk assessment will detail the requirements for a particular site.
- Ensure the vacant buildings and their perimeters are properly secured and alarmed – the options are numerous from cameras through to security shutters, specialist remote alarms or guards.
- Turn off utilities, drain down internal water tanks and boilers and use specialist locks to secure utility taps.
- Check on the premises regularly, at least every week, to see if there are any signs of attempted squatting – this is particularly important because there are time limits in implementing an Interim Possession Order, a potentially fast track method to freeing a property from squatters.
- Remove any articles of value internally and externally, if possible.