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How to Prevent Squatters Taking Up Residence in a Vacant Property

A property is an expensive investment, so it is sensible to do everything in your power to protect it from damage. Unfortunately, empty properties, both residential and commercial, are very attractive to squatters. Although new laws have made it easier to remove squatters from residential properties, it can still be a big hassle and cost you money if you need to repair any damage. No property owner wants squatters moving in, so to prevent this from happening to you check out the following tips.

Install Adequate Security

Vacant property security is a must-have if you own a property that is currently empty. Squatters are less likely to target a vacant property if it has an alarm system and/or security cameras installed. All of these features make it harder for people to gain entry and remain undetected. Some security features can be installed as a DIY project, but if you own a commercial property, it is better to hire an experienced contractor such as Compound Security Specialists.

Make Regular Property Checks

Don’t assume your property is OK if it is left empty for a while. Even if you think it is reasonably secure, it is still a good idea to check it regularly, if only to make sure there is no damage as a result of a burst pipe or vermin infestations. If a property looks well cared for, squatters are more likely to leave it alone, so keep the landscaping well-maintained and fix any problems when they arise.

Feign Occupancy

One way to deter squatters is to pretend the property is occupied – even when it’s not. Residential properties tend to look occupied when there are curtains or blinds in windows and the garden is tidy. Leave lights on timers and pay a visit every few days to pick up any post that has been delivered, or redirect it. If a property looks cared for, it is safer than one that has been abandoned by the owner.

Squatting and the Law

In 2012, it was made illegal for anyone to enter a residential property without permission with the intention of living there. In legal speak, the act of squatting is known as ‘adverse possession’. Anyone caught squatting faces six months in prison and a hefty fine. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t extend to commercial properties, so they are now the main target for squatters.

Is it Easy to Remove Squatters?

If you discover squatters living in your property you need to apply for an Interim Possession Order (IPO). Once you have an IPO, you can instruct your squatters to vacate the property within 24 hours. If they fail to do so, they can be arrested and sent to prison.

Squatters who have taken up residence in a commercial property can only be evicted if they have caused damage, committed theft, used utilities without permission, dumped rubbish, or violated a noise abatement notice. If any of these things happen, the police will take action. Otherwise, it is a civil matter.

One important thing to remember is that a property owner is liable if a squatter injures themselves inside the property, so it is in your interests to prevent them from entering in the first place.  You may also want to get in touch with your insurance company if your property will be empty as it could void the insurance plan you have in place.
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