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Squatters – is your empty property adequately protected?

Squatting is a problem that affects owners of all types of properties. High property prices and unaffordable rental charges means that squatting has become a way of life for a growing number of people and the economic downturn has exacerbated the problem putting more property owners at risk.

Evicting squatters can be both time consuming and costly and the financial implications are not only limited to the legal expense of eviction. Costs can also arise from damage caused to a property during its occupation and through loss of rental income for landlords.

To add to the problem recent reports suggest that a growing number of property owners are under insuring their properties. As a property owner with a vacant premise you may want to consider legal expenses cover to protect you financially in the event of squatters moving in.

So what can you do to protect your premises from squatters?

We have a compiled a list of practical steps you can take to help protect your unoccupied property from squatters. Remember some of these measures will be more appropriate than others depending on the type of property - private or commercial, and the security measures already in place.

  • Visit your empty property on a regular basis, clearing any letters or rubbish that may have built up. A build up of mail is a vital clue that a property is empty!
  • Install a letter box seal to prevent arsonists or squatters setting fire to the property
  • Ensure the perimeter of the property is secure and install window locks ensuring they are actually locked
  • Consider fitting steel fittings to windows and doors
  • Consider installing intruder alarms and security lighting ensuring that they are working and fit for purpose
  • Make sure there is no roof access. Squatters claim legal rights by entering open or previously vandalised entry-points!
  • Ask your neighboring property owners to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to yourself
  • Cap off all utilities. If a property is to be refurbished, remove the fuse board too. This will make it difficult for squatters to reconnect the electricity
  • Consider if you would benefit from the services of contract manned security guards

Don't forget to take immediate action when a property becomes vacant to mitigate the risks associated with squatting remembering to inform your insurer immediately - they may have specific requirements to ensure you have cover for your property.

Published 1st May 2012

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