How to protect your development site from squatters

Author: Rhian Arrenberg, Professional Support Lawyer, Real Estate Dispute Resolution, London 

Following the creation of a criminal offence of squatting in residential premises* punishable with up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000, there is a real concern that squatters are turning their attention towards occupying commercial buildings instead. Typical development sites such as empty office, retail and industrial premises are often seen as prime targets for travellers, protestors and squatters, particularly where there is a relative lack of security and ease of entry.  In our third in a series of posts relating to vacant possession, this post sets out some tips for landowners on how to avoid trespassers entering onto land or into buildings in the first place.

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Squash those squatters: how to regain possession of your development site

Author: Rhian Arrenberg, Professional Support Lawyer, Real Estate Dispute Resolution, London

A key concern for anyone involved in the development of land will be the landowner's ability to secure vacant possession of the development site in order for work to start.   Once occupational tenancies are terminated, development sites and units within them can often be left empty.  These can then become prime targets for squatters.   We have seen a recent increase in protesters and travellers occupying high profile development sites either in order to disrupt progress of the development, or simply as a place to live or work until moved on (in the case of travellers). The recent criminalisation of squatting in residential premises has driven squatters towards commercial sites, and typical development sites offering empty retail, office and industrial premises can be attractive to squatters particularly where there is a lack of security and ease of entry.

Whilst prevention is always better than cure (we will write soon on preventing squatters occupying in the first place), developers are likely to own a number of empty properties at any one time, and even with good security, it is no easy task to keep watch on the properties at all times, especially because well-practiced squatters will adopt a covert approach. By the time illegal occupation is discovered, the occupiers may be greater in number, occupying a larger part of the premises than before.

So, what can be done about squatters?  In this post we discuss methods which can be used.

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How can I access neighbouring land to carry out development works?

Author: Rhian Arrenberg, Professional Support Lawyer, Real Estate Dispute Resolution, London

In this post, we explore an issue common to many development projects in England and Wales: that of gaining access to the development site to carry out the works, when the land over which access is required is not within the ownership or control of the landlord/developer. We look in particular at how development works can progress despite this difficulty and the possible options available to circumvent the problem.

It is a rare project that does not require access, at some stage, to a neighbour’s land in order to complete development works. Amongst many other things, access may be required in order to:

  • erect scaffolding, whether on or oversailing a neighbour’s land;
  • access parts of the development site on foot or by vehicle;
  • dig footings for new buildings;

all depending on the nature and extent of the development works and site. In order to avoid a possible claim in trespass or nuisance, it is important for developers to identify, at the outset of a project, whether access to neighbouring land will be required, the length of time it will be required for and the extent of the access required, so that they can consider how to best achieve that within the development timetable.

How can developers secure access over land to which they do not have title?

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