Finance4U

Squatting: A Revitalized Business Menace


Squatters’ ability to cause havoc is increasing. Unfair laws mean that professional squatters can move into buildings, occupy them, and then claim them as their own, so long as they pay taxes or reside there for a specific amount of time. Worse still, it becomes almost impossible to remove them legally. While trespassing laws seem to be strong, they appear to be useless when it comes to squatters’ semi-mystical status. This problem is particularly acute for businesses. Many have to manage vacant buildings and premises as part of their operations. Having people off-site for long periods is normal for many firms. How do business owners prevent squatters?

Secure Empty Property is a company that offers vacant property security services. It’s seen a massive increase in demand from worried owners who want to protect their assets.

“The current legal situation is not favorable to owners,” the brand says. “Many entrepreneurs and business leaders are shocked when they discover just how much power and freedom squatters have to do what they want. People often find themselves locked out of buildings they own and can’t get help, even when they have the deed in hand. Courts are slow to process cases, and professional squatters understand the rules and know how to game the system. It’s not right what’s happened, but without changes in the law, the risk is going to continue.”

For this reason, there is a renewed focus on prevention. While political change is slow, there are things that building owners can do today to prevent squatters from taking advantage of empty premises.

“Dozens of people secure their properties intelligently to prevent people from getting in every month,” says Secure Empty Property. “It’s about adopting multiple systems that can operate independently, letting owners know what’s happening on their sites and deterring squatters with advanced signaling. Professionals will look for easier targets – that’s the hope with all this.”

Why Squatting Is A Problem For Businesses

Squatting A Revitalized Business Menace

Squatting is a nightmare for businesses on multiple levels. The problem is difficult to deal with because owners can’t take matters into their own hands. The law binds them and prevents them from acting to protect their property.

Property Damage

One issue is property damage. Squatters don’t care about the maintenance of the buildings they live in. And that can accelerate depreciation and lead to massive refit costs.

For example, squatters are more likely to neglect a property. If plumbing and electricity don’t work, they are also more likely to live without using these facilities, harming the property in the process. Many owners who eventually evict squatters have to clean out their feces and deep-clean the premises to remove all traces of human waste.

Squatters can also rip out electrical wiring and plumbing systems, using materials to furnish properties they own or sell on the market for money. These changes can render a building non-functional and lead to significant clean-up costs.

Legal Headaches

Evicting squatters is a lengthy and frustrating process if you try to do it via the legal route. Courts often feel like they are siding with the people making your life miserable.

If you can’t vote out legislators in your area who implemented these policies, you can still go through the courts. However, local laws vary, and it can take weeks to obtain an eviction order. In the meantime, you are accumulating legal fees and having to pay lawyers large sums of money to work on your behalf and protect you from the state.

These costs eat into your business’s finances. It may prevent you from launching a location or reopening a store.

Safety Issues

Squatters are also a nightmare for businesses because they attract criminal activity. Once crime becomes established in an area, it is harder to dislodge, even if you do regain control of your premises. Higher crime means bigger insurance premiums and higher renewal quotes, which is the opposite of what you want.

It is also troublesome for customers and employees. People don’t feel safe on your premises because of the history of crime, even after squatters leave.

You can try to deal with this problem through regular reporting to the police, but this again, is challenging. Cops aren’t always available to patrol areas, leading to higher crime levels.

“The safety concerns can be high, and there’s also a risk of squatters hurting themselves on the property and then making claims,” Secure Empty Property says. “The risk of people breaking in and then injuring themselves is something that building owners must consider, even if the property is empty as far as they are concerned. What really matters is how the courts and insurance companies interpret the use of the building. And their decisions don’t always follow common sense.”

Loss Of Revenue

Finally, businesses can struggle with a loss of revenue when squatters move in. Companies can’t reopen vacant properties and begin trading until they have dealt with the problem.

This revenue loss can be significant. Closing a business for six months because of a squatter issue often means that the company can no longer function or provide a return. Staff leave, and it becomes like beginning the business from scratch all over again.

“That’s why it is worth investing in entry mitigation strategies,” Secure Empty Property says. “Stopping squatters from moving in is the best way to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. It’s a far more robust approach.”

How To Prevent Squatters

Squatting

The big question for business owners today is how to prevent squatters from breaking in and causing trouble in the first place. If business leaders can adopt the proper policies, they can potentially prevent this menace from spreading further.

Reinforce Entry Points

One policy is to reinforce entry points. Making it almost impossible for squatters to get in without heavy-duty tools and machinery can make a tremendous difference.

“We’ve seen a big increase in demand from business owners wanting to board up windows and doors,” says Secure Empty Property. “But you have to go beyond basic wood. The best approach is metal barriers, fitted from the inside to prevent squatters from unscrewing and removing them.”

Putting deadbolts on all doors and installing security film on windows can also help. These make breaking and entering rapidly substantially more challenging.

Light Up The Building At Night

Another potent strategy is to illuminate the building at night. Keeping the lights on can deter would-be squatters from trying to access the property by making it look occupied or in use.

These days, building lights are inexpensive. You can use LEDs to keep your properly illuminated non-stop. You can even get internal lights that mimic the flickering effect of a TV, making it seem like there are occupants.

Keep The Property Tidy

Squatters often look for untidy, unused properties where they can spend several days or weeks becoming established before anyone notices. Therefore, keeping your vacant property tidy can be a strong deterrent even if you’re not using it.

Focus on things like keeping the landscaping and gutters clean. Little signals like these can suggest a property is not in use. If it’s a commercial building, it can also help to keep the signage in the window. This tells squatters the company is open for business and that they should move on.

Get Your Neighbors To Keep Watch

Another tactic is to get your neighbors to keep watch. As people who share a site with you, they often have an incentive to prevent squatters from taking up residence to maintain their building values and create a pleasant environment for customers and staff.

Come to an arrangement where your neighbors will call you if they notice anyone on your site. You can then respond in minutes, getting everyone you know to attend the premises and deter squatters who might be trying to move in.

Put Up A Security System

If you don’t have any neighbors or they don’t want to cooperate, you can also try putting up a security system. These can monitor your site 24/7 and send you automatic notifications if they detect any unusual movement around the premises. You can then respond by attending the site and clarifying that the building is still in use.

Create The Illusion Of Occupancy

You can also create the illusion of occupancy by rotating the internal lighting and leaving vehicles parked outside (if available). You want to schedule a normal routine as much as possible.

If you share a commercial site with other businesses, let them temporarily use any parking spaces in front of your building. Collect the mail from the mailbox and continue watering the plants to make them look green, lush, and used. Squatters will soon get the idea and move on.

So, there you have it: the problems of squatting and how to deal with them as a business. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t protect property owners, but hopefully, the situation will change soon. Remember, prevention is much better than cure right now.

 

Featured and internal images provided by Ricardo Gomez Angel, Annie Spratt, & Nastuh Abootalebi; Unsplash; Thanks!

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