Introduction to Squatting
There are some people out there who simply can’t find another way of living other than squatting in various locations across the country. Despite the governments plans to force through an initiative that makes squatting illegal, many people feel that their only option for shelter is to reside in properties that don’t belong to them.
This can be a particularly stressful issue for property owners who fall victim to squatting, and this could be one of many reasons why most people have a distasteful opinion of squatters. It’s no surprise considering temporarily vacant properties are often targeted.
On the other hand, many people feel that the subject of squatting is something that must be addressed from both sides. Whilst there seems plenty wrong with intruding into someone’s property and calling it their own, squatters are often the victims of problematic lifestyles and they are in fact legally obliged to enter an abandoned property for shelter.
Many people against the idea of squatting instead focus on the fact that many squatters will inherit a property that is already owned, or has been left vacant for a certain amount of time. What’s more, many homeowners are left confused by the legal status of squatting and aren’t quite sure of how to deal with the situation once it becomes an issue.
Back in 2011, the number of squatters in the UK reached 20,000 according to government figures. The government have expressed their desire to clamp down on the issue of squatting, although there are many people who feel that squatters still pose a threat to their properties.
If you are one of many who are concerned about the prospect of dealing with squatters, there are a number of ways you can combat the issue to ensure that your property is well equipped to withstand any potential intrusion.
Keeping Squatters at Bay
You might not be surprised to hear that security plays a vital role in preventing squatters from accessing a vacant property. If someone ever tries to break their way in to your property, they are acting illegally and could easily be arrested on site. Unfortunately, many squatters that do gain access may argue that the property was not efficiently secured.
The first thing to do is to plan exactly how long you’re going to be away throughout the year, especially if you own a property that is regularly vacant. Once you’ve got a plan marked out on your calendar, you can talk to the neighbours and discuss periods throughout the year when you are not going to be present. Neighbours can play a vital role in your protecting your vacant property as long as you’re away.
If you feel your home could be under threat from squatters who are capable of breaking in, the next thing to do is to inherit a few of the security methods often used against burglaries and trespassers. Security cameras, gates, dog signs and other intruder deterrents can significantly improve the security aspects of your property. In addition, you can go one further and install heightened walls, security barriers and window boards whilst you’re away.
If you’ve covered all the security enhancements and still feel under threat, you can contact property guardian organisations that look to protect vacant properties from the prospect of intrusion. They operate by hiring people to carry out typical ownership routines through renting property. It can be extremely comforting to know that a trustworthy person is looking after your property.
If Squatters Have Already Gained Access
If you’re faced with the troublesome issue of having to deal with squatters in a property you own, there are a number of things you can do. You should start by engaging in conversation with them to discover what it is they’re after. In many cases people have successfully seen off squatters through productive conversation and reaching an agreement. Whether you decide to take a calm or aggressive approach, squatters are more likely to be intimidated by the prospect of a court case.
It’ important to let authority know that your property has been taken over by squatters, as there are many things the police can do to help you out. They can be made aware of valuable belongings in the property, assist you with any confrontations and possibly even help remove the squatters from your property. However, a court order is often the only answer to removing squatters from your property.
If you’re understandably afraid to talk to the squatters, you should seek assistance from a neighbour or the police as soon as possible. Having people onboard to help you out can be extremely reassuring. If you are prepared to discuss with them, consider things such as their mental state, their way of living and so on to try and get a better understanding of the situation. They may choose to leave without incident if you take this approach.
If you take the right steps in the first place you can significantly reduce the chances of your property being taken over by squatters, although it’s understandable that many properties are illegally accessed on many occasions. Retrieving your property from squatters can be quite difficult as well, with court orders taking days and repossession through bailiffs and other government services stretching to weeks or even months.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you look to increase the security of your vacant property whenever you get the chance. It can save you a significant amount of time and money should you decide to pursue an interim possession order. Interim possession orders give squatters a day to leave the property, but cost thousands to acquire.
Edward Nelson is a property owner and often takes on new projects consisting of renovating dilapidated properties in much need of care and attention to release back to the buy-to-let market. With experience in the civil engineering industry he also writes about current issues for Maltaward, a civil engineering contractor in the south-east of England.