With the housing market being as tight as it is, many property owners find themselves with vacant properties for extended periods of time. While this can be a burden on your wallet, it also presents an opportunity for others to take advantage of your property and squat in it until you decide to sell or lease it again. Squatters can be detrimental to a property and can leave interior and external damage that is very costly to repair, as well as attract further antisocial behaviour. However, squatter situations are avoidable if you know what to look out for and take precautionary measures beforehand. Here are our top tips to help you avoid squatters in your vacant property.
5 Tips on How to Avoid Squatters in your Vacant Property
Did you know that a long-term squatter can actually become the registered owner of property or land they’ve occupied without the owner’s permission? This applies when a squatter has occupied the property continuously for 10 years. Although it is rare for this situation to occur, there are many effective methods on how to avoid squatters altogether and prevent potential issues such as these from arising.
1. Monitor the property regularly
If you don’t have anybody coming in and out of the property, you may miss the warning signs of squatters being present. While it is recommended that you hire a property management or cleaning service to come in and out of the property at least once a month, this doesn’t always happen. If you are not diligent in monitoring the property, potential squatters may pick up on this overtime and make your property their home if they believe that the space is not being regularly surveyed.
As a property owner, the best way to ensure that your property is protected at all times is to have trusted property guardians living in the building. With full time occupation of the property providing 24/7 security, the building is less susceptible to intruders. Read more about our vacant property guardian scheme here.
2. Set up a surveillance system
Even if you are able to monitor the property regularly, you should set up a surveillance system that will alert you when the property is being entered and exited. If you have a monitored security system installed on the property, then you should set up notifications so that you are alerted when somebody is entering or exiting the property. If you have a standard surveillance system that doesn’t have monitoring capabilities, then you could also purchase a doorbell camera. This will allow you to see who is coming and going from the property. You should also monitor the surrounding neighbourhood for suspicious activity. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, you should report it to the authorities. At The LOWE Group, we provide a range of vacant property security services from manned guarding to alarms and key-holding services in order to minimise the risk of squatters.
3. Seal any access points
Securing your vacant property will ensure that it is difficult to enter, and therefore, less likely to attract squatters. This includes all entry points – you should seal any entry points such as broken windows, loose doors, and utility openings. Also access points such as roof access and letter boxes will also need to be addressed. Whilst this may seem like an obvious solution, exploring your property for any and all potential points of entry and ensuring that these are well-secured is critical for how to avoid squatters in your vacant property.
4. Cap off all utilities
Alongside ensuring that access to utility openings are well-secured (you could also remove controls such as the fuse board), if a property is completely empty, it may be beneficial to shut off water and energy supplies. This will ensure that even if the property becomes inhabited by a squatter, it will be difficult to live in and less likely for intruders to remain. If your property has become or will be empty for a long duration of time, then shutting off all utilities will additionally help save on costs.
5. Have both landlord and property insurance
Insurance will help protect you against damage to your property, or loss of rental income. If your property becomes vacant and or unoccupied for a long period of time, it is in your best interest to continue with property insurance policy to ensure optimum protection and help alleviate some of the financial stress should squatters take over your property.
How to Avoid Squatters with LOWE
Following our 5 tips above, the risk of having squatters enter your empty property can be greatly reduced. If you are proactive in implementing preventative measures, you can protect your property, your health, and your investment. At LOWE we deliver cost-effective, innovative solutions to managing vacant properties, which create social impact and support local communities. For more information on how to avoid squatters and the Vacant Property Services we offer, including property guardianship and charitable occupation, contact us today.