Government backs commercial property squatting law
Following on from his successful campaign to criminalise squatting in residential property, MP Mike Weatherley believes the law should now be extended to cover the rights of commercial property owners, and has revealed that Secretary of State for Justice is working towards the cause.
Last year the law was changed to make squatting in residential properties illegal, punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to £5,000. Mr Weatherley now wants to see the same residential property rights passed onto commercial property, which he argues is now bearing the brunt from outcast residential squatters.
In January 2013, Mr Weatherley tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in support of the cause, which he followed up on in an oral question session in the House of Commons in February 2013, where he raised the continuing problem of squatters occupying commercial properties with the Ministry of Justice.
In response to his queries, the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green confirmed that his department were collating evidence of squatting in commercial property and believes that squatting in all forms is a damaging offence.
In a recent press release, the British Property Federation raised their concerns on the heightened amount of risk now being placed on commercial property by squatters, and called for the government to urgently amend the law.
The BPF argued the businesses and commercial property owners should be protected with the same rights as residential property owners, and held a seminar featuring a panel of experts to examine possible solutions to what has been dubbed, ‘Weatherley’s law’ by irate squatters
Speaking at the BPF seminar, Mr Weatherley said: “The recent change in the law for squatting in residential properties has brought a welcome relief to homeowners across the country. Unfortunately, though, for commercial property owners the problem has got worse, as squatters now specifically target non-residential buildings.
“This just goes to show why the law needs to be extended to cover commercial properties and I am pleased the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, is sympathetic to this cause.”
Panel speaker and the Chief Executive of the BFP, Liz Peace was quick to sympathise with the UK’s housing crisis, noting its effect on homelessness and squatting but indicated that a balance must be struck for the rights of commercial property owners.