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New Law Fails Commercial Property Owners

New Law Fails Commercial Property Owners

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Howes Percival is warning owners and managers of vacant commercial or agricultural property to be extra vigilant in protecting their premises against squatters as new rules making squatting in residential property a criminal offence pass into law. 

Squatting in residential properties is to become a criminal offence after The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 was given royal assent at the beginning of this month.  Under the Act, squatting in a domestic building will become punishable with a maximum fine of £5,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to 51 weeks.  The new law does not extend to squatting in commercial premises.

Siôn Hudson, Solicitor at Howes Percival explained:

“The new legislation makes squatting in a residential building a crime and contains some measures to make it easier for homeowners to prove that their property is being occupied unlawfully.  However, the same protection will not extend to non-residential property where squatting will remain a civil offence.  A potential knock-on effect of the new law could see squatters targeting unoccupied commercial premises or disused agricultural buildings because it will be much harder to force them to leave.”     

Mr Hudson advises property owners:

“If you own an empty building, whether it is residential or commercial, then you must take adequate steps to secure your property against intruders.  A reliance on the potential deterrent effect of the new offence would be thoroughly misguided and much anguish and expense will ensue if squatters target your building.”

 

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