Posted on: 02 August 2019
Protecting your property from unwelcome guests
Reports from 2011 showed that 20,000 people in the UK were living in abandoned or unoccupied property, also known as squatting. The Ministry of Justice believes that this figure has risen by 5,000 in the last 10 years, since 2009.
Squatters can cause damage to your property which can be costly to replace, and evicting them from your property takes time so what are your rights when it comes to squatters on your property?
What does the law say?
In England and Wales, squatting in a residential property is illegal under the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, and can carry fines of up to £5,000 and 6 months imprisonment. Squatting in a commercial property, however is not usually classed as a criminal offence. So someone can squat in a shop or pub, as long as it is in the non-residential area of the business. To evict a squatter you will need to serve an eviction notice.
In Northern Ireland, squatting isn’t a crime, but squatters can still be punished for criminal damage or theft.
Squatting on any private property is illegal in Scotland, and property owners have the right to remove a squatter from their property without notice or a court order.
How to keep squatters out
If you have an unoccupied property, you should take the following precautions to keep squatters out.
Secure your premises
The first precaution you should take is ensuring that all of your windows and doors are locked so that no one can easily get onto the premises. You should also try to take away any means of accessing your property, such as scaffolding or ladders. If you haven’t already, install a security system on your property, such as intruder alarms or surveillance cameras.
Make regular visits
Making regular visits to your property can make it seem as though there is someone regularly checking on the property. This is also a deterrent against thieves who may be scoping out empty properties. Making regular visits will also ensure that if there are any squatters, they are discovered sooner rather than later.
Shut off services such as water and electricity
By removing basic utilities, squatters will find it difficult to live at your property. Whilst they might have already gained access to your property, they might not stay long if they don’t have easy access to essentials, such as water.
If you find squatters…
The first thing you should do if you find squatters on your property is call the police. For commercial property owners, you should also get an eviction order as soon as possible from the courts, which means that the squatters can be arrested if they don’t leave. If you have secured the property, and the squatters have forced their way in, make sure you let the police know, as forced entry is a crime, regardless of whether you have a commercial or residential property.
Property insurance with Premierline
If you are particularly worried about squatters and what they might do to your property, be sure to check with your broker or insurer to see if your policy covers you for any damage that may be caused by squatters. You may also benefit from legal cover to help cover costs if you need to go through a court process.
Premierline is a business insurance broker who works with some of the UK’s most well-known insurance companies to compare landlord insurance quotes. Whether you are a commercial landlord or a residential landlord, our insurance experts will assess your needs and source an insurance policy that is perfect for you.
Source: Zywave inc. – Property Management Risk Insights: Keep squatters off your property
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