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Ben Parkinson
Ben Parkinson
  • 2 Minute Read
  • 05th October 2012

Commercial property owners warned over squatter risk

Top legal firm Adams & Remers have warned UK commercial property owners to guard empty or partially occupied buildings against the threat of squatters.


Following the introduction of government legislation in September 2012 to criminalise squatting in residential property, it is feared that those displaced will instead seek refuge in empty commercial buildings.


Simon Janaway, solicitor for Adams & Remers, said: “The advice being given by groups which support squatting now indicates that they are looking to actively target commercial property, and their removal from it remains primarily a civil matter and therefore the responsibility of the property owner, who will need to take legal action to recover the property.”


“This is both time consuming and costly to do, and whilst the intention behind the new law was to protect home owners, it has pushed the problem towards the business community where there are many empty commercial property around for squatters to choose from”.


Janaway speculates that multi-use residential and commercial property will be most vulnerable, citing the examples of an empty shop or pub with a flat above.


He said: “Property which is both a residential and a commercial property should be considered particularly at risk, and groups supporting squatters are advising them to only occupy the parts of the building that are classed as commercial.”


Should squatters gain successful entry to such a property, they could theoretically claim to only be occupying the commercial space, rendering the police powerless to intervene. Such rights would not come in to play if the property owner were able to prove entry was forced, or that items or utilities were being stolen.


The Ministry of Justice has suggested an improvement to current civil remedies, with more stringent enforcement of existing criminal aspects including forced entry, criminal damage and burglary.


Janaway went on to explain current legal procedures, saying: “The only option open to the property owner to remove squatters is to obtain and enforce a court order for possession, but this can be expensive.”


“It is also often necessary to use court bailiffs to enforce an order for possession and secure the removal of the squatters. In some situations you can ask the court for an interim possession order and then within 24 hours of this being served the squatters will be committing a criminal offence and may be arrested”.


“The situation with empty commercial property is a sad and familiar sight in many towns and cities across the country and this is now a long term issue in many areas and it is likely that the use of many properties will have to change,” he added.


Such news highlights the importance of comprehensive security measures to businesses, where the most valuable asset is often the building they occupy. Serviced offices provide a secure option for businesses of all sizes, with the responsibility for investment in protective measures falling on the business centre owners, whilst tenants are free to inspect the security infrastructure before a contract is signed.