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How to Protect your Property from Squatters

Tuesday, 12th June 2012

Categories: Miscellaneous

Author: Peter Barry

With some very high profile cases of squatters taking over mansions in and around London recently, the problem of unauthorised residency has been brought to public attention. There’s a distinct divide: many people think that no property should be left empty while there are so many individuals waiting to be housed and living in temporary accommodation. However the flipside is the heartbreak and distress that squatting can cause to homeowners whose houses have been taken over by squatters.

Whilst it’s true that some squatted buildings have been long abandoned or aren’t fit for human habitation, others are houses that are undergoing renovation, or are empty whilst probate is being agreed, or relatives are working through other legal matters. Whilst unauthorised occupation of a property is a criminal act, it can be surprisingly difficult to remove genuine squatters once they have established themselves in a house or flat. Certain criteria have to be met and proof must be sought that the squatters have no legal claim to the property – this all takes time. Squatters can’t be removed from a property without a possession order and the longer this process takes, the more settled the squatters become and the greater they believe their entitlement to stay.

Regular check-ups

If you’re worried that your property might be vulnerable to squatters, security should be your top priority. You might be a landlord with a number of properties that could be empty due to a variety of reasons and it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Or, you might have purchased a house that needs renovation and, as such, will be vacant for a long period of time. It’s therefore vital that you have excellent security measures in place whilst the property is uninhabited. Change the locks as soon as you take possession of a property and ensure that window locks are also fitted.

Keep track of who has sets of keys to your house. For example, if you have builders on site, you’ll probably need to leave spare keys with them – but make sure you know who has the keys and that they aren’t being passed around to anyone else without your knowledge.

Cover up

It can be very obvious if a property is empty, particularly if intermittent work is taking place, or tenants have moved out and no one else is moving in immediately. If you know your property is going to be vacant – and therefore vulnerable – take some measures to make it less obvious.

  • Put blinds or net curtains up at every window to detract opportunists.  
  • Remove free papers and stray leaflets from the letterbox to stop your property being identified as long-term vacant.
    If you can’t check up on your property regularly ask someone who lives close by to pop round every day or to check it’s still secure.
  • If builders are working on site, make sure they lock up securely each night when they leave.
  • Although void patches in tenancies can be unavoidable, and building works can take longer than expected, try not to leave your property empty for any longer than is absolutely necessary.
  • It is also a good idea to make sure that the front garden is kept clean and tidy too. Litter and overgrown plants and bushes can make a property appear uncared for or vacant.

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