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THE CHALLENGES OF SECURING VACANT BUILDINGS IN LONDON

It is impossible to discuss Security in relation to vacant buildings London and Central London without addressing squatting. What exactly does squatting consist of?

Squatting is when someone deliberately enters empty or abandoned property without permission and lives there.

Vacant buildings in Central London can all be vulnerable to squatters.  Even a disused police station in East London was occupied by squatters in 2005, and in this instance the case was adjourned for four months, allowing the squatters to stay put during that time.  When squatters occupy an empty building it is actually incredibly difficult for the legal owner to arrange for them to be evicted.

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Vacant building in Central London

Vacant building in Central London

This is because while squatting in residential property is a criminal offence, squatting in a commercial property is not. Aside from this, many squatters are well organised, well aware of their rights and perfectly prepared to exploit any opportunities which present themselves.  This is particularly pertinent in Central London.  An unoccupied commercial property without any security presence in Central London would be perceived as an appealing opportunity for squatters who can range from individuals who choose squatting as an expression of their anti-establishment politics or people who are homeless,  suffering from mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction or even students unable to afford London rents. At Security Risk Specialist we have first-hand experience of removing squatters and securing empty buildings in Central London.

Professional squatters will know that the police will only get involved if a squatter has made someone homeless, has broken into the property within which they are squatting, or has caused damage while staying there.  The onus is on the owner of a property occupied by squatters to prove that damage was done by the squatters themselves, something that is very difficult to prove, particularly if the site is not monitored by CCTV cameras or protected by security officers or security guard dogs.

There is an estimated 20,000 squatters in the UK with a large proportion of them occupying vacant properties in Central London. If squatters manage to get into a vacant commercial building in Central London, it is likely to take several months before a court injunction is obtained. The large numbers of unoccupied properties in London make it a magnet for squatters from all over the UK and Europe.

There are a number of Security options for property owners who are concerned about their vacant properties in Central London. The first, and most effective solution is to prevent squatters from entering vacant commercial buildings in London altogether.  Security Risk Specialists will provide a free risk assessment analysis for property owners with vacant buildings in Central London. Preventing entry by squatters and supporting the eviction process is something we specialise in. While it may sound bizarre, getting rid of squatters after they enter a property can be a long, costly and highly stressful process so the ideal scenario is to avoid entry by squatters from the outset.  However if this is not possible then a court order needs to be obtained and a Security strategy must be in place for the process of evicting the squatters, boarding up the building, locking and securing access points to prevent re-entry by persistent squatters, and implementing a long term Security strategy for the site.  Dog Security can be extremely effective particularly when combined with an appropriate CCTV system and the appointment of vigilant Security Officers.  Dog security or Security Guards patrolling a site frequently provides a strong visual deterrent and dis-incentivises squatters who are often looking for weak and easy targets rather than carefully secured buildings.

Although the cost of Security for unoccupied and vacant properties in London may appear to be high at first glance, when considering the potential damage squatters can cause to empty buildings in London and the associated waste of time and legal costs of evicting them, a trusted security company who specialise in security for empty buildings is undoubtedly the most sensible and cost effective option in the long term.

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