Squatters Targeting Commercial Properties
The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has made squatting in residential premises a criminal offence. Police now have the power to remove squatters from residential properties and those convicted could be issued with a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison.
However this new legislation does not extend to squatters in commercial premises. As a result, squatters are increasingly targeting commercial properties, which remains a civil matter. Commercial landlords with premises occupied by squatters must still apply through the civil courts for a possession order, which is both time consuming and costly. These costs are unlikely to be recovered from the squatters. Commercial landlords with empty premises should be aware of this and put in place robust security measures to reduce the risk of their premises being occupied by squatters.
The government has said that this area of law will remain under review, but it is yet to be seen whether a similar criminal offence will be created to help protect commercial landlords.