There has been an evident rise in the number of squatters taking up residence in both unoccupied domestic and empty commercial properties since the beginning of the pandemic. This spike is due to many people being financially devastated by the Coronavirus pandemic because of losing their jobs. Those who previously used homeless shelters may also have suffered when these were closed because of various lockdowns throughout the country.
Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) data shows that there has been a 21% increase in the number of homeless people since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and record numbers of young and disabled people being made newly homeless.
The change in immigration rules that makes one night of rough sleeping now grounds for deportation of non-UK nationals has also led to fewer people admitting to being homeless and becoming squatters instead. Almost one-third of non-UK nationals are afraid to ask for help because it means they must officially declare their homeless status according to data from homeless charities such as APAP, St Mungo’s and Street Link.
Squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence, and the police or the court system can take action to have squatters removed. Squatters in residential buildings can receive a fine of up to £5,000 and up to 6 months in prison. Do not ever try to remove squatters yourself using force or the threat of force, as you will be committing a crime yourself if you do so. Instead, get professional assistance by using the services of an enforcement agency such as Ingram Enforcement.
Squatting in a commercial property, however, is not usually a crime. The police can typically only act if squatters commit other crimes when entering or staying in a property. These crimes include causing damage when entering a property or whilst inside a property, fly-tipping, using utilities without permission, stealing from the property, and not leaving when they’re told to by court order. You should always contact the police first if you see someone breaking into or damaging commercial property and shouldn’t confront them yourself.
With many more buildings sitting empty thanks to the pandemic, the question of how to protect against squatters is something property owners need to consider now more than ever.
If you’re a property owner who wants to protect against finding your unoccupied property taken over by squatters, the best form of prevention is to prevent entry in the first place. Ensure your property is as secure as possible by installing additional locks, shutters, or similar ways of blocking access. Installing deterrents such as CCTV and intruder alarm systems can also be a great way to ward off potential squatters. Another option is to employ a security guard or property guardian whose job it is to secure your property and ensure it stays unoccupied.
Should the property become occupied, it is essential to act quickly. Contact Ingram Enforcement immediately, and we will help with the process of getting the squatters evicted.