Home Services Live-In Guardians Mitigating Risk & Minimising Cost Squatters
Properties that are occupied are not targeted by squatters. Squatters are only looking for buildings of which they can take possession. In order to demonstrate possession squatters must be able to control entrance and exit of the property.
Squatters will often break into properties with the intention of living there. Some are amicable, respectful and are genuinely looking for somewhere to live as they have none. Others can seriously vandalise a property, strip boilers, pipework and wiring, and use it for taking hard drugs, holding large parties, can create enormous costs and an immense amount of stress for the landlord.
The risk lies not only in the often very considerable cost of repair and clean-up of a property after squatters have been removed, but also in the cost and time taken to remove the squatters through the court. The hidden costs of delay to development, letting or sale can threaten the profitability of a project.
Legally a squatter must have entered a property through an open door or window or it is classified as breaking and entering and is a criminal offence. In practice squatters usually break into vacant property to take possession and repair any damage they have made thus making it difficult to prove they have committed a criminal offence rather than a civil one.
Properties that are occupied are not targeted by squatters
Our live-in guards are moving around the properties they protect throughout the day and night, controlling and making use of all entrances
Our live-in guardians take occupation throughout the buildings we protect and thus there is no opportunity for squatters to take possession. Squatters have to change the locks in order to take possession but because multiple live-in guardians are within the building throughout each day changing locks is completely implausible.
Our guardians live on-site and this ensures that if squatters broke into a property, it could easily be identified as breaking and entering. The fact that live-in guards have possessions in the property would also prevent squatters from being able to set-up their own living arrangements and acts as a deterrent as squatters do not target places where people are already living.
Having our live-in guardian’s possessions in the property makes it straightforward to prove who has a right to possession without having to go to county court.
Live-in guards are the most effective protection possible against squatters. Live-in guardians enable a property to continue the appearance that it is functioning, demonstrating socially responsible management to the neighbours and general public and preventing it from being targeted by squatters.
Live-in guards are the most effective protection possible against squatters
The law changed on 1 September 2012 making it a criminal offence to trespass in a residential property with the intention of living there (S144 LASPO 2012).
Since then, networks of squatters in the UK have been almost solely targeting commercial buildings. Being in a commercial property without consent is not currently considered a breach of criminal law and police can only take action when criminal law has been broken, like damage to property or theft. The Financial Times reported a rise of 100% in trespassing cases for commercial property in the quarter following the change in legislation that made trespassing in residential buildings a criminal offence.
Despite this change in law, squatting in residential properties remains a threat in particular parts of the country. This is partially due to a lack of enforcement by the police. Cuts in police budgets have made some police stations reluctant to take on the additional responsibility for managing security for all vacant residential buildings. In addition, it is very difficult for a police officer on a doorstep to tell the difference between a genuine tenancy dispute and a squatter who claims a right to reside at a property.
Therefore, in order to establish whether there has been a criminal offence under S144 it may require a case in court, by which time the squatters have disappeared. For a conviction to be made under the new law the trespasser must essentially confess to entering the property with the intention of living there.
Our live-in guardians take occupation throughout the buildings we protect and thus there is no opportunity for squatters to take possession
Once squatters have occupied a building, removing them can be time consuming and expensive. Property owners are required to file an application for a Possession Order (PO) or an Interim Possession Order (IPO) at their local county court to claim their right of possession.
An IPO can speed up the process by which possession is granted to the rightful title owner (with possession granted immediately and the judge having power to require trespassers to vacate 24 hours after a judgment is made), but they are not always successful and will require a bailiff to evict the squatters if they refuse to go voluntarily. Even if an IPO is granted the claimant will have to attend court on a second occasion to receive the full possession order.
Owners can claim for damages against squatters with an ordinary possession order (PO) but because the trespassers are “persons unknown” with no fixed address or registered name that allows them to be traced, in almost all cases damages cannot be retrieved.
Property owners have been known to lose cases for rights of possession and can be required by the judge to first meet certain conditions before they are granted a possession order. Applications for possession are by no means a certain outcome. There are often legal and bureaucratic complications which delay possession being granted and can cause a county court judge to decide against the favour of property owners.
Even once possession has been granted there can be delays to court bailiffs executing the possession order. As a result, it can take many weeks to get an initial eviction date.
Squatters have also become adept at delaying eviction and can turn up in very large numbers on the scheduled day, preventing bailiffs from evicting them. This may necessitate the bailiffs returning to county court to reschedule a return with reinforcements.
A second eviction date may not be set for many more weeks, in part due to government cuts drastically reducing the number of serving county court bailiffs.
The alternative to waiting for the court bailiff is to hire a private one who serves county court orders or will escalate the possession order to the High Court. This can quickly become expensive. The bailiff firm will decide how many bailiffs are required and what force is reasonable based on their own risk assessment of the eviction. If there has been a previous failed eviction due to large numbers of squatters the case could be considered a high-risk eviction and costs will increase accordingly. There is a charge per hour for each bailiff required, an attendance fee and any charges for any additional assistance required.
Once served with a possession order in some cases squatters cause extensive damage to the building before they leave, taking with them metal piping, electrical cables, copper boilers, lead roofing or other valuable items. With some of the more disagreeable squatters extensive damages and large parties or squat raves are done out of spite for evicting them. If squatters are successfully removed the property is immediately vulnerable.
The problem of squatters is easily and effectively prevented with live-in guardians and charitable occupiers
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