The Number of commercial premises targeted by squatters ‘has doubled’
VPS has issued an alert for vacant property owners as anti-squatting law becomes one year old in September
• Squatters plan to mark this anniversary
• Number of commercial properties targeted by squatters ‘has doubled’
Vacant commercial properties may be targeted by squatters as the law that made residential squatting a criminal offence came into effect on 1st September last year.
Vacant property specialists VPS are calling on all owners and landlords of vacant properties to check the security and protection of their properties.
“Squatters’ Internet sites are already encouraging action to mark the anniversary of making squatting in a residential building in England and Wales a criminal offence under section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment Act 2012.” says Simon Alderson, Commercial Director for VPS.
“Some controversy surrounded its introduction for a number of reasons, one of which was that it only included residential buildings and not commercial premises. As a result more vacant commercial properties have been targeted since the law was passed, and it would be no surprise to see a spike in such activity this weekend.” Mr Alderson explains.
David Marsden, a partner of the law firm Charles Russell and who specialises in commercial property disputes says: “In the first six months after the anti-squatting law was passed we saw a doubling of cases handling the squatting of commercial properties.”
Mr Alderson also chairs the British Security Industry Association’s Vacant Property Protection Group, which this month launched a detailed code of practice to help secure vacant properties.
The new code* provides guidelines for the provision of security for vacant properties, the nature of which varies considerably according to the type and condition of property and might include manned guarding, monitoring or patrols, physical barriers, materials, structures or electronic devices.
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 alarm systems through to steel security screens 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 entry. 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.