Evicting Trespassers from Commercial Property and Land
Trespassers and squatters can pose a risk to commercial property landlords if premises are left untenanted. Vacant premises can be taken over, damaged and vandalised, whilst the presence of squatters make it very difficult to find a tenant. Landlords are still liable for business rates on unleased properties however, so the longer they go without a tenant, the greater the financial losses and inconvenience.
It’s vital to take swift action, if you are having issues with squatters or trespassers to minimise any potential costs or damage, but it’s also crucial to make sure that you comply with the law and take the right course of action. At Lupton Fawcett, we understand the importance of resolving issues with trespassers and squatters efficiently to protect your commercial interests. Our team of Commercial Property Dispute Lawyers will give you practical advice and guidance on how to enforce your rights ethically, whilst also resolving the situation swiftly and with minimal disruption to your business.
Squatting in non-residential properties
A person who occupies a property without the legal right to do so is known as a squatter. Squatting in residential properties was made illegal in 2012, and so commercial properties (any building or land that is not designed to be lived in) are now more vulnerable to being occupied by trespassers than they have been in previous years.
The law around trespass and squatting is not always straightforward. The law is not the same for commercial and residential properties; it is not a crime to be on non-residential property without permission. It is an offence however, if the trespasser does not leave when asked to by the landlord. If squatters commit other crimes when entering or occupying a property, then police are able to take action.
These crimes include:
- causing damage; either on entering the property, or while in/on it
- refusing to leave when told to by a court
- committing theft from the property
- using utilities without permission (such as electricity or gas)
- ignoring a noise abatement notice.
As the landlord of a commercial property, you need to be aware that other than asking for the trespassers to leave, you are limited in the actions that you can personally take; you cannot attempt to use force or threats to evict a squatter, as this is also against the law. This is why we do not advise attempting to move squatters or trespassers on without legal advice; the law surrounding trespass can be complex, and any action taken to regain possession of a property will depend on a range of factors.
Acting quickly is important, as court proceedings to evict trespassers can take time, and the longer the trespasser is on the property, the greater the risk of damage and costs. Landlords should also consider the risk of the occupier gaining legal rights to the land through “adverse possession”; if a tenant occupies property for a certain amount of time, and meets certain criteria, they can apply to become the registered owner of that property. This is extremely rare and would involve possession over a long period of time but should be considered if the building is empty.
Leasehold tenants who fail to leave a property when a lease has ended, even when the landlord has a possession order, can also be considered trespassers. It may be necessary to return to court to regain possession of the property in cases such as these, although commercial landlords may be able to claim damages.
Removing trespassers or squatters from your commercial property
If you become aware of trespassers on your commercial property, or the land surrounding it, you need to act quickly, under expert legal advice. It’s important to ensure that you do not expose yourself to any liability by failing to follow the proper process. As trespassing on a commercial property is a civil matter, it is often necessary to apply for a possession order.
Interim Possession order (IPO)
You can apply for an IPO within 28 days of becoming aware that there are trespassers on your commercial property. This is a quick and straightforward process; you need to fill in an application form and send it to the county court. The court will usually send you confirmation within a few days of applying, enclosing documents which you will need to give to the squatters within 48 hours.
The squatters then have 24 hours to leave your property, and they must stay away for 12 months. If they fail to do so, they are guilty of a summary offence under section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and they can be sent to prison.
To get final possession of the property, you need to apply for possession at the same time as applying for the IPO. The whole process takes no more than a couple of weeks to resolve, assuming that you can prove your claim, and the trespassers are unable to show any legal claim to the land.
Although this is a quick solution, it may not be appropriate if you wish to claim for damages caused by the trespassers. If this is the case, you may need to apply for a regular claim for possession. An IPO is also unsuitable in instances where you are trying to evict someone who has previously been a tenant or sub-tenant.
N5 Claim form for Possession of Property
If it has been more than 28 days since you discovered that squatters were occupying your commercial property, you will not be able to apply for an Interim Possession Order, and instead will need to make a claim for possession.
This is usually a relatively quick process involving filling in and submitting an N5 claim form, which can be done online or by post. As soon as the possession order comes through it can be enforced by bailiffs, with police if necessary.
If you are unsure as to the best route to take to remove trespassers or squatters from your commercial property, get in touch as soon as possible. We can advise commercial landlords on the most efficient and cost-effective way to proceed.
How to deter trespassers from your commercial property
Commercial properties can be appealing to squatters, and with the potential risks and costs they pose to landlords, it is worth taking some measures to reduce the risk of your property being targeted while empty. Consider:
- making sure that the property is secure, so that it is difficult to gain entry
- ensuring that you have an alarm system and CCTV as a deterrent to trespassers
- have the property inspected regularly
- turning off utilities such as water and electricity.
Why choose Lupton Fawcett?
At Lupton Fawcett, we have a team of property litigation experts who will work swiftly to protect your property and your best interests if you find yourself dealing with squatters or trespassers. We offer a bespoke service to businesses of all sizes and have an outstanding track record in this area of the law.
Based in Yorkshire, we have assisted clients across the country in the safe and lawful removal or eviction of trespassers from commercial property. If you are a commercial landlord and you need assistance, contact us as soon as possible for a consultation, and see why so many clients choose to put their business in our hands.
We provide a personalised service, with sector specialists and extensive resources to ensure we are giving you the best solutions to your problems.
Our Commercial Property Litigation Solicitors act regularly for clients across the United Kingdom including Bradford, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield, York and Nottingham. We can support your needs wherever you live in England, Wales & Northern Ireland.
For a no obligation initial consultation please either call the office or leave your details using the contact form at the top of this page. We’ll be happy to help.