What does the law say about squatting in commercial property?

what does the law say about squatting commercial propertyIn the news we often see stories of owners of both residential and commercial properties coming home to find that their properties have been taken over by squatters or unwanted visitors. However, rather than there being a simple solution once squatting begins, there is often quite a lot of difficulty involved in removing squatters and the law is sometimes unclear.

Squatting defined

In England and Wales, squatters are defined as a person or persons who is not the owner of a property or piece of land but has entered that place with the intention to live there. This is sometimes known as ‘adverse possession’. The reasons for squatting are vast and may be driven by homelessness, poverty, protest or other reasons.

What the law says

While the law is quite well defined with regards to squatting in residential property like apartments and houses, it is less clear with non-residential property and may be termed as trespass. With residential property, squatting can lead to large fines, prison sentences or both. With non-residential property though such as schools, warehouses, factories and shops the law is less clear.

The act of being inside a non-residential property without express permission is often deemed as trespass which is a civil matter and means that property owners must seek resolution through the courts – which can often be a lengthy process. The only way that the police can take action is if there is proof that another type of crime has been committed such as fly tipping, criminal damage, use of utilities without permission or other criminal matters and because of this, commercial properties or often targeted by squatters.

The process of removing squatters is often a lengthy process with land owners having to apply for what is called an interim possession order (IPO) which can take time to be processed in which time damage may have been caused to your property without your knowledge. Seeking to remove squatters yourself is not only dangerous but should you use force could mean that you face criminal charges yourself and therefore prevention of squatting is often the best strategy to take.

Prevention

There are plenty of different methods for securing a vacant property from being accessed by squatters. Strong perimeter security tools such as gates and barriers are an important place to start. However, every property is different and may require different approaches to put a stop to unauthorised access.

Gateway Automation provide a range of products to help businesses and individuals to secure their sites and also provide nationwide servicing and repairs to gates, barriers and other perimeter security equipment. To find out more and to arrange a risk assessment, please call us on 01522 682255.

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