Squatters & commercial property

Commercial property owners have become increasingly at risk of having squatters occupy their premises. There are two main factors that have led to an increase in squatters most recently. Unfortunately, during the recession many landlords found that their properties became vacant as businesses struggled. Combined with the fact that in September 2012 it became a criminal offence to squat in a residential property. 

The legislation does not apply to commercial property, open land or previous tenants. It is estimated that approximately 15% of commercial properties are empty and a high proportion of these are in London due to the density of offices, shops and pubs in this area. We can assist landlords in relation to squatters regardless of where the premises are located in the country. We have been appointed by commercial property landlords with these issues throughout the Boroughs of London as well as nationwide.

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Preventing squatting 

Where possible landlords should consider letting the property on a short-term temporary trading basis to avoid the property being empty. However if this is not feasible, and the property is empty, these simple steps may make the property less visible and suitable to squatters:

  • Clearing rubbish and post from doorways;
  • Switching off utilities such as gas and water
  • Removing fixtures, fittings and stock. You may seek to remove bathroom and kitchen facilities 
  • Visiting properties regularly to maintain security

If you encounter problems with squatters in your premises it is important to seek advice from a commercial real estate solicitor who understands the civil procedure that has to be operated in order to lawfully remove squatters. We can assist landlords with two main options: 

Interim Possession Order (IPO)

This procedure is usually used when a landowner requires possession of a property urgently, for instance if a new tenant is about to move into the commercial property.  A claim must be issued at Court along with an application for an IPO and a supporting witness statement, both of which must be signed by the landowner. The claim and application must be served within 24 hours of being issued and the squatters must leave the property within 24 hours of being served with the IPO.  There is a 28 day time limit, so for this option to be considered, commercial property owners need to seek advice as soon as possible.

Possession Claim

A claim is usually issued against the anonymous person and served at the relevant building. A hearing will then take place when the Court will decide whether to make an Order for possession or not. Enforcement can then be carried out by the Court bailiffs following a Warrant of Possession. We can assist you with a Possession claim all the way through the process. 

Where possible we seek to charge a fixed price as we understand that control over cost is important. Call us on 0203 816 9303 for a free, no obligation initial chat with one of our legal advisors to see how we could assist you, alternatively please complete our online enquiry form and a member of our commercial property team will contact you. 

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