Increased Squatters Risk in Commercial Properties
From the 1st September squatting in residential buildings in England and Wales became a criminal offence, with perpetrators facing up to six months in jail and a maximum £5,000 fine. This legislation does not apply to commercial properties, which may now become more vulnerable as squatters seek alternatives.
This change in leglislation could lead to an upsurge in significant damage to commercial properties, such as that caused by fire whether deliberate or accidental. This could lead to serious disruption for property owners. Even more so, because with winter around the corner, the nights are growing colder and the hours of daylight are getting shorter.
In light of this we would advise our customers to be aware of a few basic precautions regarding empty properties in order to protect against squatters.
What can our clients do to minimise the risk?
- Ensure an adequate level of physical protection to windows/doors/perimeter.
- Consider boarding up windows and doors
- Keep both intruder and fire alarm systems fully operational.
- Removal of any unfixed combustible materials from the premises and surrounding areas.
- Frequent internal and external inspections.
- Ensure that all CCTV equipment is in full working order.
- Consider installation of a temporary intruder alarm system while the property is unoccupied (recommended in accordance with the SSAIB code of practice for temporary alarm systems).
- Employment of security guards – either for periodical visits or permanently based staff.
- Retention of working sprinklers.
- Turn off, drain down and secure any mains water supplies, tanks and pipework etc, to prevent use or abuse by squatters.
All commercial policy wordings have conditions and obligations regarding unoccupied properties. We would strongly suggest that you speak with your insurance broker if a property you own or manage becomes unoccupied.