With the festive period drawing closer and people thinking about what to buy their loved ones, there is one gift that will be unwelcome, namely squatters.
Over the holidays every year we see a significant rise in squatters taking over empty buildings such as pubs and restaurants. These types of buildings can be particularly attractive to squatters as they come with their own supply of festive spirits!
Commercial property is particularly vulnerable during the festive period as they will often be empty for at least a week.
Is it a criminal offence to squat?
Whilst squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence with a prison sentence of up to 6 months and fine of up to £5k, squatting in a commercial property isn’t an offence.
In the winter months the homeless will look to empty buildings to shelter from the cold weather. This is something to be particularly aware of if the building is in an area that is quiet over Christmas such as business parks and places like the City of London that are filled with mostly offices.
- There are an estimated 12,000 households living in squats
- Many squatters have mental health needs, they are more than twice as likely to have experienced mental health issues and the rate of psychosis in the homeless population is exponentially higher.
- There are currently approximately 50,000 people living in temporary accommodation
- In 2016/17 there were over 8,000 people sleeping rough
What can you do to prevent squatters?
Having good security in place can be well worth investing in to reduce the need for removal when January comes around. Security measures include the following:
- Strong doors and locks – consider fitting temporary metal shuttering, hired for the period
- Motion detector lighting
- Hiring a security company to carry out random checks
- Property guardians
If you do experience a problem with squatting, we can assist, we will risk assess the situation and bring a team of qualified and experienced enforcement agents to evict the squatters. We can also assist with the clean up operation and have security firms that can be on hand to advise and secure the property and look at implementing measures to prevent the re-occurrence of squatters.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance