As it is now an offence to squat in a residential property, business owners have been warned to expect more squatters attempting to gain access to their commercial properties.
Under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, squatting is a criminal offence in residential properties and anyone found doing so could face a fine, or be imprisoned. But this piece of legislation doesn’t stretch to commercial properties and so business owners could find they have new tenants in their unoccupied office, warehouse or retail unit that aren’t very easy to get rid of.
Andy Miller, Risk Control Manager at Allianz Property, spoke of the need for business owners to take extra precautions to protect their property.
He said: “Now that the news is out there, it will shift squatting from residential to commercial properties. It could lead to a lot of damage to commercial properties such as arson. I’m not entirely sure commercial property owners are aware of this.
“There will be more homeless people looking for somewhere to bed down for the night. In this current economic climate with more people losing their homes, the new law could add fuel to the fire.”
However in Kent, local MP’s have launched a campaign to make squatting in commercial properties an offence like residential. The move came after a mixed-used property was taken over by squatters in Chatham.
Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford spoke of need for the Government to clarify building like pubs.
She said: “One of the things that concerns me is that there has been a move now into disused pubs.
“It’s important that we get some clarification, particularly on mixed-used buildings like pubs as to where people stand.”
Are you a business owner? Do you think squatting should be made a criminal offence for commercial properties, as well as residential?