Landlords: Beware the trespasser and protect your property now
Since the Coronavirus pandemic, the world as we once knew it has changed. The trend of agile working appears to now be the norm and, like it or not, it is here to stay. We are therefore observing a rise in employers reducing their property footprint or even vacating properties entirely.
Whilst you may have plans to dispose of a property, redevelop or re-let it at some stage, it is at risk from trespassers if empty. Once trespassers are in situ, you are faced with them being there until you obtain a possession order from the Court and enforcement action is taken.
So, landlords, are you confident that your property is not currently vulnerable, whilst it is left unoccupied? If not, we urge you to act now – not least because evicting trespassers can be an expensive and lengthy process.
In some cases, it can be straightforward and the trespassers may leave on their own accord. However, in other cases, large groups can form quite quickly, and criminal damage to property may occur.
Enforcement action can also be tricky to manage. On some occasions, enforcement agents require Police support to manage an eviction and the process has to be planned precisely. In one recent case – as reported in The Times, a landlord even resorted to instructing special forces veterans to abseil down a building in London, as part of an elite operation to evict trespassers. Whilst this may sound extreme, this was a grade II listed building, a wedding venue, with a market rent of £295,000 per year, so it was imperative for the eviction to be dealt with expeditiously.
To ensure that your property has adequate security protection, there are some practical steps that can be taken as set out below – graded from the lowest protection, to the highest form:
- Install barriers or blocks to prevent access to a property, and trespasser warning signs.
- Install CCTV camera and light systems. These are good deterrents and, if necessary, act as good evidence in recovering possession from court.
- Appoint physical security officers on site 24/7, or at least at night. This is the gold standard protection and deterrent you can opt for.
The higher the level of protection, of course, the more expensive this will be.
However, a worst-case scenario trespass action which requires top level enforcement, in addition to similar security measures post eviction to ensure the trespassers do not re-enter, can be even costlier.
To sensibly assess the level of security you should opt for, consider what type of landlord you are, and your attitude towards risk and proportionality of the security measures as against the value of the property.
The key takeaway point is to be aware, be prepared, and act now to protect your property.
In the unfortunate event you find yourself with trespassers at your property now, or at some stage in the future, please contact Megan Daniels for advice on next steps.