Trespassers will be prosecuted.....or will they?
19 December 2018
Trespassers or “squatters” can present major issues for owners of commercial land and buildings.
A trespasser is a person who enters or remains on land without the owner’s licence or consent and is applicable to a variety of people and groups, including for example:
- travellers with caravans, trucks and vans on large parcels of land;
- protestors, such as the ‘Occupy’ movement or persons opposed to “fracking”, nuclear power or animal rights issues;
- groups such as bohemians, drug users, illegal raves or the homeless occupying buildings as a home.
Issues caused by trespassers can go far beyond the land owner being unable to access their land. The presence of trespassers can prevent land owners from proceeding with construction and re-fit works, which often results in significant delay and costs penalties being incurred. There is also a high risk of damage being caused to property or land, including the risk of fly-tipping and the associated clean-up costs. To put this into perspective, the cost to land owners to clear sites following an unlawful occupation has been known to be in excess of £100k per site.
Land owners should also be aware that they could be liable in the event that a trespasser is injured whilst occupying their land/property.
Types of land and property typically targeted by trespassers include car parks, playing fields, construction sites, vacant offices, warehouses, factories and even art galleries. Land owners should therefore take measures to secure these high-risk properties from the risks of unlawful occupation.
It is important for land owners to know their rights to remove trespassers and to follow the eviction process correctly, otherwise they could be subject to both civil and criminal sanctions.
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