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Vacant Property – A Security Risk


Vacant Property

Vacant property may be empty, but it belongs to someone. Protecting property from abuse by vandals, squatters, and thieves is vital not least from a Health and Safety perspective.

Changes in the Law in 2012 made squatting a Criminal Offence, however, that has not reduced the frequency of property invasions in the UK. The legislation has meant that illegal occupiers are now attacking commercial/ industrial premises and in particular, those not covered by the revised law. Consequently, all properties including homes, office-premises, shops and commercial units, abandoned hotels and agricultural buildings are at risk once they fall vacant.

Historically across the Country, the vulnerability of vacant property has fallen into two clear categories:

Property that is at risk from trespassers and vandals who have entered to remove materials including, cables, lead, copper, and anything that has a scrap value.

Squatters looking for a temporary place to live, will take over property to a) gain a mortgage, or b) occupy rent-free, especially in winter.

Recent years has seen a new category, the use of the unoccupied property for illegal/illicit raves etc. Derelict properties have been used, many of them being in remote locations where they are unobserved and unpoliced.

An illegal rave took place in July 2015 when 1000 plus revellers took over a disused post office in Waltham Forest. Whilst there the intruders stripped and vandalised the property causing £100,000 worth of damage.

Out of town unused and empty warehouses on industrial estates are also vulnerable especially those in remote locations.

So what is the Remedy?

Securing access into buildings helps, however, there are legal constraints upon the owners to make certain that intruders do not come to harm, and that neighbouring property owners are not impacted by the trespassers. Trespassers injured whilst on premises, children especially, may have a case in law, whilst neighbours who experience nuisance from trespassers continually using the property for anti-social activities, particularly those causing the property to become dangerous, may bring a public nuisance action against the property holder for failing to secure the property.

Here are our top tips to secure your vacant property:

  • Purpose made security products and services are highly cost effective, i.e. tamper-proof screens, and security-doors,

  • With due diligence measures, Security personnel making inspections can reduce the attraction of a property.