A warning to owners of vacant properties to stay alert ahead of G8 Summit
When a property becomes vacant, act quickly to protect it:
• hundreds of riot police swoop on London office squat
• G8 protesters actively planning more targets
• VPS issues tips to protect vacant properties from squatting
Vacant commercial properties are likely to be increasingly targeted for squats, warns Simon Alderson, the recently elected chairman of the Vacant Property Protection Group for BSIA.
Yesterday morning hundreds of riot police descended on a squat in a vacant office off Golden Square, Soho, as protesters planned their activities for the G8 Summit.
Simon Alderson, also Commercial Director for the vacant property specialists VPS, says “After the high profile activity in the morning, we were contacted late yesterday and asked if we could protect the property now that it is vacant again. We rapidly dispatched a team who secured the premises that night.”
“Next week, the UK hosts the G8 Summit, and whilst the protesters will target banks and other City institutions, they may also encourage wider squatting activity. Since the laws changed last year to criminalise the squatting of residential properties, so we can expect more vacant commercial properties to be targeted.” Mr Alderson explains.
An estimated 10,000 protesters are expected in Northern Ireland where the Summit takes place, but protests are likely to be seen in major cities throughout the UK.
“In addition, the cut in housing benefits for low income earners, known as the bedroom tax, may mean some tenants cannot afford to stay in their current accommodation. This could put further pressure on the security of vacant commercial properties.” Mr Alderson states.
The BSIA’s Vacant Property Protection group is planning a detailed guide on best practices to help secure vacant properties, but in the meantime, Mr Alderson summarises six key actions owners can take to help protect their vacant properties.
Top 6 Tips to prevent squatting:
1. When a property becomes vacant, act quickly to protect it. A risk assessment will detail the requirements for a particular site.
2. 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.
3. Turn off utilities, drain down internal water tanks and boilers and use specialist locks to secure utility taps.
4. Check on the premises regularly, at least every week – or more frequently in these heightened alerts – to see if there are any signs of attempted squatting. This is particularly important as there are time limits in implementing an Interim Possession Order, a potentially fast track method to freeing a property from squatters.
5. Remove any articles of value internally and externally, if possible, and clear combustible materials on or by the site – sixty fires a day occur in or by vacant properties, so clearing such items not only reduces the risk but can help comply with the terms of insurance.
6. And talking of insurance – check if you are covered for intrusions and the subsequent costs possible from damage, cleaning and legal fees.
VPS secure more than 90,000 properties and employ over 1500 staff in 100 locations across the UK, the US and mainland Europe. Their core services for vacant properties range from risk assessment, clearing, cleaning and maintenance, through to security, monitoring and preparation for re-letting or sale. These services protect properties against unauthorised access and a variety of hazards such as arson, theft and squatting.