Vacant property owners could be putting their premises at risk of vandalism or intrusion during the COVID-19 lockdown, as they are being forced to make tough financial choices, according to SafeSite Security Solutions.
Despite many commercial property owners seeking security advice when lockdown was announced on 23 March many have made the difficult decision not to implement security measures at their premises.
Gabriella Pemberton, General Manager at SafeSite Security Solutions said: “When Boris Johnson took the unprecedented step to put the country in lockdown, to attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus, we were inundated with enquiries from property owners forced to shut their businesses who wanted to know how best to protect their premises. Many were understandably concerned about the risk of vandalism, theft, and intrusion by squatters during the enforced closure.
“However, when faced with the option of installing temporary timber boarding, steel screens or security doors to protect their shops, many property owners struggling with cash flow have chosen to divert essential funds into paying their workforce and meeting business costs. As a result many commercial premises have been left unsecured – some with only locks, no alarm system and un-boarded glazing. These properties can be a green light to unscrupulous squatters.
“As squatting in non-residential buildings or land is not illegal (although it is a crime to damage the property), typically commercial property owners must bring a court action to evict squatters from their premises. These actions can take time to progress to a judgment and even if such an order is granted the squatters may not leave – meaning enforcement agents must be instructed to remove them. However, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (CVA 2020) has suspended all ongoing possession actions - the aim being to protect honourable occupants from eviction for a defined period of time – and provides protection to a range of occupiers, including trespassers. Despite recent clarifications to the Act, which will now allow applications for interim possession orders to be made, we’re still seeing delays in enforcement action being brought.
“There are also insurance implications when premises are left unoccupied for extended periods of time, and landlords should check with their insurance provider to ensure they are not at risk of invalidating their policy.
“We know this is an incredibly difficult time for commercial landlords but we’re urging property owners to consider taking security precautions, such as installing timber boarding, steel screens, additional locks, and deterrents such as CCTV and alarm systems, to mitigate the risk of squatters entering their property. Commercial property owners should also carry out regular property inspections – or ask their security provider to do so on their behalf – in line with the CVA 2020, which permits people to travel for the purposes of work, to check that their premises are not at risk.”
SafeSite Security Solutions provides a complete range of security products and services for vacant properties. Call today for expert advice and a free, no obligation quotation.