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When is a squatter not a criminal?

11th September 2013

When is a squatter not a criminal?

Where the trends of residential property lead, those of the commercial sector do not necessarily follow. However, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has lately become the focus of attention from the business world, under pressure to bring commercial property under the same criminal sanctions as residential in respect of squatters. 

Squatters can be no less devastating to commercial properties, damaging the landlord’s physical property, the tenant’s contents, and potentially the livelihood and reputation of both, and proving very costly to remove, often requiring the assistance of the courts or the police. 

MPs from all parties are backing calls to criminalise squatters of commercial premises. Indeed, part of the reason behind the problem having worsened for commercial property owners is the change in the law in respect of residential properties, pushing squatters into premises where at present only civil action can be taken against them. And the figures involved in removing the squatters can be significant, with one developer recently facing a bill of £100,000 and a sheltered housing centre paying £150,000 for the removal – after two years of occupation.   

Ahmed Al-Ansari, Media Manager at Morgan Pryce, notes, “Given the recent economic climate there will be ever more empty properties around, and given the fact that the owners often live nowhere nearby, the state of the properties is difficult to monitor. Action after the event is costly, and the MPs are right in that what is needed is a significant deterrent, as there is for residential premises.”

The current penalty for squatting in a residential building is £5,000 or six months in prison.

This news was brought to you by Morgan Pryce, a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants. 

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