A Law which has been implemented from the start means anyone found in an empty residential home risks up to a year in prison or a £5,000 fine, although the legislation does not extend to commercial property.
Giles Horne of Miller Commercials' Property Management Team is concerned this legislation is too narrow and doesn't go far enough, as it only applies to residential buildings which have been "designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live". Accordingly, commercial properties are still very much at threat.
Giles says "owners of empty commercial buildings need to be particularly careful as squatters may start to search around for a new place to live. Office blocks, retail units and industrial buildings will become fair game for squatters – and there are plenty of empty premises about" .
The police have been quick to react to the new Law carrying out raids at flats in London and Kent where the squatters have been subsequently charged under the new anti-squatting Legislation, but this has led to groups of squatters moving on to occupy other premises such as shops and offices.
Giles Horne warns that it could all too easily happen here. He says "there's a public perception that squatting in business premises is a victimless crime. This is not the case as many companies cannot sustain the legal and clean-up costs that squatters cause. Bearing in mind all the other financial pressures on property owners (empty business rates for example), further costs could seriously affect the investment".
"If we discovered squatters had broken into one of the several hundred properties we manage throughout Cornwall and Devon, we would organise for bailiffs to service an Eviction Notice on behalf of the client. The process involved to rid the premises of squatters is long and drawn out and can take months. As far as I can see this new 'Squatters Law' offers no benefit to our clients with commercial properties".
For more information contact Giles Horne on 01872 247010