What you can legally do as a property owner or landlord to remove squatters from your commercial property.
Commercial properties have been put exponentially at risk from squatters since 2012, when the law making squatting in residential properties a criminal offence was put into effect. Now, while residential property owners are able to legally keep squatters out of their buildings, commercial property owners have had to deal with an influx of unauthorised occupiers that they cannot as easily get rid of.
Currently, squatting in non-residential buildings is still a civil law matter rather than a criminal one, which means that the property owner has to go to court in order to have the issue resolved. If you obtain a summary possession order, which costs £175 to just issue the application, you can expect to take back possession of the property from 10 days to four weeks. This timescale takes into account court hearings and bailiff warning and enforcement, although if there is risk of damage to the property this process will be conducted via the High Court, which is much quicker.
If you're looking for a quicker turnaround, then you can obtain an Interim Possession Order, but it can only be used within 28 days of you becoming aware of the squatters occupying your property. An IPO can be more complex as it is only an interim measure while waiting for a hearing, and the application may even be overturned following the hearing. It is also reliant on specific timescales and other technicalities, which can derail the entire application and process if not followed to the letter, and is also a more expensive procedure for only being potentially faster than a summary possession order.
However, the police can remove unauthorised occupiers if they have committed criminal damage, for instance by forcibly breaking into the property or damaging the inside in some way. While squatting in the property is not a crime in itself, damaging it is. The police can also take action if the unauthorised occupants have stolen from the property, used any of the utilities without permission, dumping waste otherwise known as fly-tipping, and of course ignoring court notices to leave if your court order goes through.
In order to avoid damage to your property by squatters breaking in, and in order to avoid costly legal fees in court applications and hiring a lawyer, we'd recommend taking preventative measures. Investing in protecting your commercial property from being entered, either by force or through lack of security, can save you money and grief later on down the line. Our services include boarding up properties to prevent entry or access with security doors and screens, alarms and CCTV cameras, and even manned security, to name but a few of our specialities.
Contact us today to secure and protect your empty commercial property.