One issue that is common for empty commercial buildings over the Christmas period is squatters.
Every January we see an increase in landlords of commercial premises instructing us to evict squatters, or as we more commonly label them ‘persons unknown’.
This is because squatters see empty commercial property as fair game if it has not been adequately protected and secured by the owner.
Buildings likely to be a temptation for squatters include empty pubs, cafes and restaurants along with unoccupied retail and office space. But the truth of the matter is that any building can be a target, as it is likely to be better than sleeping in a doorway or on the street.
How you can protect your property from squatters
- Consider hiring a security patrol or a security guard
- Install an alarm system
- Remove anything valuable from the property
- Use CCTV to monitor the building
- Consider installing lockable grills
- Use lighting and motion sensors
- Ensure all windows and doors are secured
- Disconnect power and water supplies (you cannot do this once you have squatters in the property, so best to do so as soon as possible to deter occupants)
What to do if you have squatters
If you do have unwanted visitors over the Christmas period then you will need to go to court of obtain an order for possession and the, if they do not leave, transfer it to the High Court for eviction under a writ of possession by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).
With a writ of possession, the police are obliged to support the enforcement agents carrying out the eviction, if their support is required and requested.
No matter what the situation or where the premises are, a risk assessment should be carried out and you should ensure that the enforcement agents are aware of any dangers or risks they might face so they can be fully prepared to carry out the eviction.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance