Squatters home in on commercial premises
- Rights of Light Consultation
- Squatters home in on commercial premises
- The Green Investment Bank
- The privileged profession
- Not in occupation, but clinging onto possession
- Please release me
- Green light for Fracking
- Mines and minerals update - are they yours?
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- Break Options - yet another failed attempt
- Town and Village Greens
First appeared in Informer: Real Estate Newsletter - Spring 2013
On 1 September 2012 section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force, bringing in a long awaited change in the law relating to residential squatting. With immediate effect, residential squatting became a criminal offence punishable on conviction by up to six months' imprisonment and a fine of up to £5,000. The law was not, however, extended to squatting on commercial land and properties.
At the time of its implementation, speculation was awash that the criminalisation of squatting in residential premises would result in squatters targeting commercial premises. Unfortunately, the rumour has crystallised into reality for commercial landlords, who have since reported a marked increase in squatting at their premises. As such, unless (and until) the changes to the law are extended to commercial properties, the primary remedy available to commercial landlords in their efforts to evict squatters will remain civil proceedings or, where circumstances permit, taking action relating to criminal offences that may have occurred in the process of squatting (although this can be difficult to achieve).
Squatting will therefore continue to have a significant impact on commercial property owners, who not only bear the costs of civil proceedings but also the resultant costs of re-securing and cleaning properties, which can run into hundreds or thousands of pounds. Going forward, prudent commercial landlords with vacant or particularly vulnerable properties should remain alert to the increased risk of squatting and take adequate steps to limit their exposure.
Hannah Watson, Associate, Property Litigation Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP