Squatting of residential property became a criminal offence in September 2012 and can result in a fine of up to £5000 and / or imprisonment for up to 6 months. The police will attend a squatted residential property and forcibly evict the squatters.
Squatting of commercial property is not a criminal offence. The police will not attend unless another criminal activity is being carried out in conjunction with squatting and even then this will not get rid of the squatters. Since the criminalisation of residential squatting there has been an increase in commercial squatting. To evict squatters from a commercial property requires an order from the County Court.
If your commercial property becomes squatted you must act quickly. The Court is able to grant an interim possession order followed by a final possession order if a request is made within 28 days of the discovery of squatters. An interim possession order is usually obtained from the Court within a couple of days of making the application. The process requires the filing of evidence with the Court and the service of that evidence personally on the squatters and at the Property. There is an initial Court hearing and the squatters are invited to attend to defend the claim. If the Judge makes an interim possession order this must be served on the squatters and displayed at the property. The interim possession order, once served, will give the squatters 24 hours to vacate the property. If the squatters fail to vacate the police do have the power to arrest. There will be a further court hearing several days later for the final possession order to be made.
Healys recently acted in the recovery of Marlborough House, located in the Old Steine, from a group of squatters. Marlborough House would not have appeared as a likely target for squatters. It is a grand and not inconspicuous building and did not appear unoccupied or abandoned. Once in Marlborough House the squatters were not prepared to vacate without an order from the Court despite immediate requests from the owner for them to leave.
We realise that you will want to regain your property without delay to avoid extensive damage and loss. Healysoffer a full service on behalf of property owners to re-gain squatted commercial property as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.