“Squatting” is defined as the deliberate act of entering a property without permission with the intent to live there. It has been a law in the U.K. since 2012 that squatting in residential properties is a criminal offence. If unauthorised individuals squat in a house or flat, the owner of the property can reach out to the police for assistance in removing them.
However, squatting in a commercial property is not a crime in the U.K.
There are countless businesses—restaurants, pubs, shopping centres, warehouses and more—that are currently empty as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you own commercial property in the U.K. that is currently unoccupied, you may be wondering what you can do to either keep squatters out or remove them.
Read on to learn the steps you can take to prevent squatters from taking over your commercial property.
Prevention Is Key
If your property will be unoccupied for a long period, your first step should be to increase its security. You may want to secure the boundary of your property. Bollards, concrete blocks and barriers across driveways will make it difficult for would-be squatters to enter your premises. You may also want to install deadlocks on doors and security screens on windows.
Investigate for Possible Criminal Activities
What if your property already has squatters? Keep in mind that the police can only be called in for assistance with squatter removal if other crimes, such as causing property damage, theft and fly-tipping, are committed by the squatters. Otherwise, it’s considered a civil case.
You can try to look for evidence of these or other crimes committed on or against your property. Once you do, you can reach out the police to make a report.
Apply For an Interim Possession Order
An interim possession order (IPO) is a court order requiring anybody staying on the property without your consent to leave the premises. You can apply for an IPO if it’s been 28 days or less since you discovered that you have squatters on your property.
You will receive confirmation of your IPO after a few days. The court will also send documents that you must give to the squatters within 48 hours. Keep in mind that you cannot use an IPO if you’re filing a claim for damages caused by the squatters or if you’re evicting former tenants, sub-tenants or licensees.
Squatters served with an IPO can be sent to prison if they do not leave your property within 24 hours of receipt. They are also required to stay away from it for 12 months.
Make a Claim for Possession
Another option is to apply for a possession order at the county court which has jurisdiction over your commercial property. Once granted, you can hire bailiffs or an enforcement agency to transfer the judgment to the High Court and carry out the eviction.
However, bailiffs must provide a 14-day notice and discontinue the eviction if they know that someone with COVID-19 symptoms is living on the property.
Keep Your Property Under Your Control
Squatters on your property need immediate action. Turn to MS Webb & Co. for 24-hour and rapid response bailiff services throughout England and Wales. We have a group of dedicated bailiffs and agents who handle repossession as amicably and efficiently as possible.
Visit our squatter eviction service page to learn how we can keep your property safe from squatters.
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