How to discourage Commercial Squatters

Ten helping tips for keeping commercial squatters away from your vacant commercial property.

office

Commercial squatters can be an issue for any commercial property owner if, for whatever reason, the property they own becomes vacant for a significant amount of time.

Recent alterations to the law have made squatting in unoccupied residential property in England and Wales a criminal offence, meaning that commercial property could now potentially be at even greater risk of being broken into for squatting purposes.

Having acknowledged that 50% of the damage caused by squatters last year was to commercial property, the Government has assured commercial property owners that it does intend to strengthen the laws in regards to commercial squatters. However, the current legislation makes empty offices a very attractive option for those who might otherwise have opted for unused residential property.

Top Tips for discouraging commercial squatters from squatting in your property:

Whilst we all wait for the Government to update the legislation affecting commercial squatters, it is worth taking note of the tips listed below, which will help any commercial property owner to keep intruders at bay.

  1. Shut off all of the building’s utlities.Without water, electricity, or gas, squatters will only get basic shelter from their accommodation, and are unlikely to wish to remain very long. If the building is undergoing refurbishment, remove the fuse board.
  2. Drain the water systems.A tap left running by a commercial squatter can easily lead to flooding, extensive damage, and expensive repair work.
  3. Set up alarm systems.Video alarm systems are perfect for use in temporarily vacant spaces such as offices. Whilst false alarms can be detected using the video footage to match, the system would also provide hard evidence in court if anyone were to break in.
  4. Fit steel security fittings.If windows and doors are fitted with security features such as metal bars, then squatters will find no way in. Make sure all access points are covered, including the roof. Squatters can claim legal rights by entering through open or previously damaged entry points.
  5. Install fencing.Create a secure perimeter to discourage squatters by erecting fencing around the building.
  6. Clean out the building.A cleaned out commercial property is much easier to keep empty and safe. Combustibles such as chairs, curtains, boxes, etc, are attractive to commercial squatters and have proven to be a great fire risk.
  7. Fit a letter box seal.Empty properties are prime targets for arsonists, and sealing up letter boxes means removing an easy access point.
  8. Use mobile or static dog patrols.No squatter wants to face a protective dog when searching for a place to stay, so try placing a few patrols are the building to keep unwanted guests away.
  9. Regularly inspect the property.As well as giving you the peace the of mind of knwoing you will catch any squatters before they have been in the property very long, inspections will also put off any commercial squatters from entering or staying in the building.

Image: Wolfgang Lonien

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