Sheffield broker advice as squatters target commercial properties

11th January 2013

Empty commercial properties in Sheffield could be the target for squatters following a change to the law, according to local broker IFM Insurance.

  Since 1 September 2012, those who occupy a residential building can face up to six months in jail and fines up to £5,000 under section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.  This means that the three decades old law of squatter's rights has been dismantled. However the new law means that squatters are now changing tactics by targeting empty or infrequently used commercial properties.  Commercial properties are free from the new rule change. This means that landlords of commercial buildings still need to go to court to evict squatters. Last year it was reported that 26.1 per cent of Sheffield shops are vacant - the sixth worst figure of any city or town in Britain, and a three per cent rise on the previous year. David Biggs, Managing Director of IFM Insurance said, - With many empty shops and pubs in Sheffield, squatters will clearly change tack because of the new legislation. Worryingly malicious squatters can destroy property within a building causing thousands of pounds of damage. As squatting is most common in commercial properties that lack adequate security, landlords should take preventive steps to mitigate the risk. Commercial property owners are advised to: Cap off all utilities. If the building is to be refurbished, remove the fuse board too. This will make it difficult for squatters to reconnect the electricity. Secure windows and entrances with steel screening to prevent vandalism and access. Make sure there is no roof access, as squatters claim legal rights by entering open or previously vandalised entry-points without forcing entry. Alarm the building with a temporary wireless alarm with integral video transmission that is monitored. The video will filter out false alarms and provide hard evidence in court cases. Install perimeter fencing to protect open areas. Remove all combustibles from the building such as mattresses, chairs and upholstery. As well as a fire hazard, they may be vilely mistreated or damaged by squatters.

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