VPS statement on new squatting law

05 September 2012
VPS has issued its reponse to the recent change to legislation on the prosecution of squatters.

Squatting in residential buildings is now a criminal offence, with perpetrators facing up to six months in jail and a maximum £5,000 fine. The legislation does not apply to commercial buildings, which now may become more vulnerable as squatters look for alternatives.

Gavin Pringle, VPS spokesperson, comments:
“We welcome this legislation, as it seeks to reduce the damage and disorder caused by squatting. With between 50,000 and 60,000 squatters in the UK, vacant buildings are in need of protection from intrusion, arson and vandalism. Unfortunately, the legislation only applies to residential property, leaving commercial buildings unprotected, and potentially at more risk, as squatters look to target them exclusively.

“We would urge those who own or manage vacant property to implement proactive measures, such as alarm technology, to deter intruders. Whilst it is encouraging that the Government is seeking to address the issue of squatting, it is an issue where prevention is better than cure. Even with increased prosecution, property owners will still be left with damage and clean up costs unless they install effective security systems that prevent intrusion from taking place.”

VPS offers the following advice to property owners and managers, who can take the subsequent steps to ensure their property is well protected:

- Taking immediate action when a building becomes vacant is the most effective way to protect a property and mitigate the risks associated with squatting. You are required by law to inform your insurer immediately when a property becomes vacant. They may have specific requirements to ensure your building is properly covered.
- Undertake a comprehensive risk assessment using a specialist company to assess potential risks, such as fire hazards and public liability exposure as well as the exposure to damage from squatters/ criminals.
- Isolate and shut down the power and gas supplies and drain down your water systems properly to avoid flooding. Clear the property making sure to remove any combustible material. Install a letter box seal to prevent arsonists or squatters setting fire to the property. A build up of mail is also a vital clue that a property is empty.
- Ensure the perimeter of the property is secure and where required fit steel security fittings to windows and doors. Instigate a minimum weekly inspection of the property both internally and externally – as required by most insurance providers.

- Secure the property with electronic security, such as the VPS SmartAlarm Gold. Sensors provide immediate detection and report on a range of incidents including intruders, flooding and fire. Verifeye Visual camera sensors, on activation, take full colour video clips which are rapidly relayed to VPS’ 24/7 national monitoring station. Not only will the alarm act as a deterrent, but if squatters do gain access, the alarm activation will register any break-in, plus the security response team will be deployed. This can act as evidence when applying for an Interim Possession Order – a fast track eviction process – or in a criminal prosecution.

- For properties requiring additional protection VPS provide a SmartGuard service which combines an onsite guard with a SmartAlarm. This is recommended for high profile sites where an onsite presence is imperative. The guard and alarm will work together so limiting the number of guards required on site.

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