Vacant property protection still paramount one year on from law change

Last Sunday (1st September) marked the one year anniversary of the anti-squatting law that made residential squatting a criminal offence. The milestone also saw squatters’ internet sites[1] encouraging action in order to mark the anniversary. As such, the Vacant Property Protection Group of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is reiterating to owners and landlords of vacant commercial properties the importance of securing and protecting their premises.

Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012 criminalised squatting in homes and all other residential buildings for the first time in England and Wales last September, making the offence punishable by a maximum prison term of up to six months, a maximum £5000 fine or both. However, the law does not include commercial premises, and as a result, more vacant commercial properties have found themselves as the target of squatters over the last year.

Simon Alderson, Chairman of the BSIA’s Vacant Property Protection Group and Commercial Director of BSIA member VPS, comments: “There is strong evidence that squatting in commercial properties has doubled since the new law came into being.

“Whether it will be expanded to include commercial premises is still very much an unknown, so in the meantime, owners are strongly advised to review their security arrangements and to implement measures to protect vacant property. Prevention is far easier and cheaper than the cure.”

When securing vacant commercial properties there are various factors that property owners should consider. One of the most important actions that owners should take is to allocate clear responsibility for all aspects of vacant property management, this includes managing the shutdown of the building, conducting a risk assessment and taking action to reduce the different types of risks.

For more information on the responsibilities and tasks involved in vacant property protection, download the BSIA’s free ‘Property Owner’s Guide to Vacant Property Security’.

Last month, the BSIA’s Vacant Property Protection Group also released its official Code of Practice, providing guidelines for the provision of security for vacant properties. Customers are recommended to use providers that follow the code, providing assurance that they are sourcing their products and services from a reputable supplier.

The Code of Practice can be downloaded free of charge here.

To find out more about vacant property protection, visit the BSIA Website