Whether you’re the landlord of an empty commercial building or the owner of a vacant car park… one things for sure, unauthorised access is a common occurrence. But what happens if they won’t leave?
At the start of February 2020 a Hampstead landlord was notified that a squatter had moved into their vacant commercial building after standing tenant free for more than a year. They’d finally acquired some interest from a potential resident, but were delayed due to the unexpected addition of an unwanted occupant. This caused the landlord to run into a cost of thousands with long delays.
Since 2012, it has been illegal to squat within a residential property and if caught, can land people with a hefty £5,000 fine and/or 6 months in prison. However, when it comes to commercial properties like pubs, hotels and offices, it’s technically still legal to squat, as long as no criminal damage is caused. This being said, with it being a civil offence, landlords are left with the only option of obtaining court orders to evict these trespassers. The question is, why are commercial and residential properties different when squatting laws are concerned?
And it isn’t just commercial buildings that are affected by unwanted occupants gaining unauthorised access to void spaces, as vacant car parks are also constant targets.
When Sefton Council opened Kew Park and Ride in 2007, it was intended to serve thousands of visitors to Southport. However, despite its 600 parking spaces and affordable pricing it didn’t achieve the desired popularity and so closed down in 2010. Since then, it has been a void space awaiting new development; attracting travellers, setting up unauthorised camps.
Similar to squatters residing in commercial properties, moving travellers on from unauthorised encampments, must be dealt through injunctions and court orders by local authorities. Provided the groups have not caused criminal damage to the land, the council and police are restricted in their approach, following national legislation and guidelines.
With almost a reactive approach, many landlords of void spaces, such as commercial buildings or car parks, don’t consider the issues these trespassers bring until they’ve gained access. A whole plethora of problems including delays to contracts, costly court orders and frustration from both parties. Adopting a proactive approach towards these unauthorised groups can reduce the ramifications facing landlords once access is granted.
The hot topic asks; would increased physical security measures reduce the costs and delays incurred for landlords when trying to evict trespassers?