Perimeter protection systems, such as security fencing, can help deter would-be squatters and prevent considerable financial outlay, commercial property owners have been advised.

Despite an announcement from the Ministry of Justice that legislative changes to make squatting illegal will be considered, VPS, the Vacant Property Specialist, says that new legislation may not reduce the damage and clean-up costs that squatters can leave behind, given that the majority of damage is caused in the first 48 hours of occupation.

In a recent high-profile squatting case, a £40 million building in London, occupied for nearly two days by trespassers, left a repair bill running into the tens of thousands of pounds.

For small commercial properties, such as pubs, the basic clean-up bill following being squatted can be upwards of £1,500 for a lock change and rubbish clearance, according to VPS. This figure would increase dramatically for larger properties, it says.

Part of its advice to property owners and managers include ensuring the perimeter of the property is secure and to undertake a risk assessment that looks at potential risks, fire hazards and public liability exposure.

Nick Tubbs, managing director of VPS UK, said: Vacant or temporarily unoccupied buildings are potential targets for squatters or trespassers, which not only cause concern, but can become a real issue for local communities.

"The majority of damage to squatted properties takes place within the first 48 hours of the premises becoming occupied, so proper protection is vital."

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