It is undoubtedly tough and worrying times for landlords. If you are lucky enough to have 100% occupation of your portfolio there is still the worry that tenants will vacate, either through insolvency or because they are able to command a better deal somewhere else.
If this happens, there is nothing worse then seeing no returns on your assets, particularly if you have finance outstanding on the property.
One such loss which could have dire financial consequences is squatters. This could prove to be a nightmare. Apart from the fact you are unlikely to find a new tenant while you have the unwanted ‘guest’, you have the costs of getting them out and the clean-up.
So prevention is better than cure. Unfortunately Parliament has missed an opportunity to assist landlords further by including commercial premises in the new criminal offence of squatting. Whether this was by design or not, I do not know. And there is also the question of whether the police will have the resources to enforce this new offence too. However, I would argue it would have been better for the economy as a whole to include commercial premises in the new criminal offence. At the very least it would have been a further deterrent.
As a result of the distinction I suspect commercial property is going to be a more attractive proposition for unwanted ‘guests’, at least for those that are worried about being locked up.
Prevention is better than cure.
So whilst it hurts to spend more on an asset that may not be yielding desired returns; play the long game and protect it. I appreciate the value of the property will have a bearing on what you are prepared to spend, however, you might want to consider these common sense steps:
- Install CCTV cameras, alarms, heavy duty locks (police or a security firm can provide advice);
- Regularly inspect the property;
- Consider employing a security guard or hiring a security firm;
- Remove any items of value;
- Try to make the property as unappealing to squatters as possible e.g. where possible turn off electricity, gas and water supplies.
If you do have an unfortunate unwanted ‘guest’ – obtain legal advice as soon as possible. You will need a court order to get them out, although there is a fast track process to do so.
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