One of the biggest threats to a vacant home is the threat of squatters. Interestingly, the official definition of squatters does not include tenants who won’t move on: squatters are those who gain illegal entry to the property and then refuse to move out.
1. Cost of legal services
Tenants who overstay the terms of their lease can be moved on in accordance with the due process of the law and often without need for solicitor costs. This may be inconvenient but almost always will not begin to match the costs that can be involved in getting squatters removed from a property. The legal fees alone for removing squatters can start at around £5000, even for a ‘straightforward’ removal, such as using due court processes or an interim order to gain access to the property. Then there are other costs to consider…
2. Cost of cleaning services
Commercial grade cleaning can be a necessary expense when clearing up after squatters, but it doesn’t come cheap. The average costs for a deep clean of a family home can be around £1500 – with extra costs for more specialist cleaning of hazardous matter. For instance, in some cases, where utilities have been turned off and squatters have not been able to use designated facilities (such as bathroom conveniences) in the intended way, some parts of the property may end up being used as a bathroom, which may result in the need for human waste removal and the thorough sanitisation of the area. This is a specialist cleaning service which can be costly, but is absolutely vital in order to prevent risk to health.
3. Cost of repairs and replacements
If squatters gained entry with a break-in then re-securing and fixing this is likely to be the minimum cost for repairs. In reality though, once inside, squatters are not likely to be considerate of their surroundings and have been known to strip properties of valuable matter such as copper and lead, as well as make their own ‘adjustments’ to the organisation of the property, by removing doors or putting up make-shift walls. The costs of repairing the property after squatters have been living there, even for a short time, can quickly run into thousands of pounds.
4. Cost of utilities and bills
Similarly, if utilities have not been turned off, squatters can enjoy the free flow, quite literally of utilities, with the homeowner whose name is on the bill being left to pick up the costs.
5. Cost of loss
And how about the losses incurred whilst squatters are in situ? Financial costs can include lost rent if you were waiting to put new tenants in the property, or having to pay for alternative accommodation if it’s your own home you can’t get into. There is also the less easy cost to calculate, that of the time spent having to make phone calls, consult legal advice, apply to the court, as well as the time spent making good and organising repairs.
So how can all of these costs be best avoided? Prevention and planning is how!
The key to locking squatters out lies in planning and prevention. If you know your property is going to be vacant for a considerable period, plan for all eventualities – including the potential for unwanted visitors and close up the residence or premises securely.
The first thing to do, if you’re worried that ex-tenants may have passed on keys to potential squatters, is to change the locks. Other advice, such as putting on lights as a ‘lived in’ look may be enough for a very short period of time, but if the property is going to be vacant for longer, it’s better to prevent all appearances of being lived in by securing the property so that no one can look in, let alone live in.
Steel security screens
A clear visual deterrent which can effectively prevent access through doors and windows, steel security screens not only prevent access via the doors and windows, they also offer a protective barrier against attempts to break in through the glass or wood of the window or door. Superbly robust, steel security screens, are not only resistant to attempts to break them, but are also a deterrent due to the amount of noise that is made when trying to do so.
When fitted by experts, using tamper-proof fixing, security screens can offer highly cost-effective protection in comparison to those costs associated with squatters.
But when you’re thinking about access points, remember other areas of the property such as garage doors and roof lights, as it’s possible to secure these with steel screening too – the experts at SafeSite Security Solutions are happy to advice on easy and effective ways to secure problem areas.
Steel security doors
Steel security doors offer another visual deterrent which acts as an obstacle and as a reminder to neighbours that no one should be going in and out, something which can flag up concerns quickly.
Security doors offer anti-drill and anti-bump properties and can be extremely versatile. They can be hinged left or right and can open outwards or inwards, so however difficult or unique the doorway, it should be possible to secure it effectively until the property is once more back into regular use.
Finally, back to that lighting. Although lighting inside the property won’t really offer any long-term security, lighting outside, such as motion sensitive lighting can actually help. Add lighting to vulnerable exterior areas and spots which can be easily noticed when disturbed will act preventatively, especially alongside the deterrent offered by steel security, bringing prevention that pays off, rather than squatters who cost more than you’d think!