Since 2010, squatting and vandalism have been two major issues of public order all over the country, more concentrated in big cities but also outside. Their rate’s rise has been caused by economic difficulties, growing unemployment and simultaneous housing price increase. In London, accommodation costs have gone up of 54% in the last 8 years. This has forced a lot of people out of their home, because they couldn’t pay their rent, leaving a lot of empty houses. According to the Empty Homes Autumn report of 2015 England has at least 610,123 empty residential dwellings, of which the 33% are long-term empty. It has been reported that 11,000 houses owned by the MOD (Ministry of Defence) are vacant, that represent the 23% of MOD housing stock, and it costs around £44m a year maintaining these empty accommodations. Some of them have been left vacant for years, like the military family homes in Cambridgeshire, that have remained empty for nearly ten years.
Buildings like these are targeted by thieves, squatters and, most of all, vandals. Also if rates have decreased in recent years, vandalism is still a problem very diffused, with the Government that spends millions every year dealing with that, and property’s owner doing the same. Someone argues that statistics report a slight reduction in vandalism instances only because people have become more used to vandalism and they don’t notify anymore.
Soaring rates of the housing market have meant that squatting has become a necessary way of life for a lot of people. The latest statistics has estimated the number of squatters in the UK around 20,000 and rising at the moment, also thanks to the Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH), implementation of section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, introduced in 2012. This gives more powers to police in order to intervene against squatters, but only in case of residential squatting, not commercial. The s144 LASPOA has contributed to reduce the length of occupation from a period between 6 months to a year to a period of 3 weeks in general, 3 months at most. On he other side it has more than redoubled the number of prosecutions, with some police’s abuses that have been reported.
Another consequence of this law against residential squatting has been the change of tack, with squatters favouring commercial buildings. It’s responsibility of the business owner if any squatter invade his commercial premises, and he has to pay to evict them and to restore the property to its original conditions. Legal fees for removing squatters start from £5000, more clean-up costs, which it is unlike to recover from squatters themselves. Moreover the occupation period is likely to be 6 weeks as minimum, due to a time of 2 weeks to get to a hearing at the court. Moreover, this long period will have a significant impact on the owner’s business, with delivering delays and aborted transactions.
Ad Hoc Property has found a new solution for property owners that leave their building empty for a certain amount of time. They arrange to fill their property with people that are ready to live in it, called Property Guardians. They will live or work in it and in the meantime they will keep your property occupied and safe. Besides, the owner can reduce his rate with Guardian’s rent, saving up to 80% of a traditional security system.
Ad Hoc Properties propose his Property Guardians’ system not only to private owners, but also to the government, as solution to his empty residential dwellings issues, allowing to save a lot of money. This can contribute in decreasing vandalism and squatting problems, keeping properties controlled by their occupying Guardians.