Beware The Christmas Shop Squatter

Greater Powers Needed To Deal With Growing Issue

21.11.2012

Commercial property experts at law firm, Irwin Mitchell, are calling for greater Police and Local Authority powers in order to help landlords and tenants deal more effectively with an expected rise in the number of shop squatters this Christmas.

The increase in the number of empty shops on the high street could increase squatter activity in the next month - and according to property litigation expert, Danny Revitt, many landlords and neighbouring shop tenants will lose out financially in view of the cost of eviction and the effect on trade at neighbouring premises.  

Danny Revitt said: “Although the run up to Christmas is usually a positive period for both landlords and retailers, one major headache that they need to contend with, and which often passes unnoticed, is the shop squatter.

“Over the years, a number of businesses have sprung up which trade by breaking into unoccupied retail premises, filling them with stock and trading from them until the landlord or the lawful tenant re-takes possession, which may require a court order.

“Unbeknown to the innocent bargain hunter, a new business that’s suddenly appeared in an empty unit selling cheap Christmas items may be illegally occupying the premises and taking trade away from lawful neighbouring businesses.

“Landlords and tenants are already struggling to cope with the changes to the rules on empty property rates relief, particularly at a time when the number of empty units has increased. The extra cost of evicting unlawful occupiers, plus putting right any damage caused to the premises, is an unwanted extra burden in already tough economic times.”

Mr Revitt added: “Not all temporary Christmas traders should be tarred with the same brush, as there are plenty of businesses which lawfully agree short term ‘pop-up’ leases to take advantage of the Christmas trade.

“However, the only solution to the financial burden that shop squatters place on landlords and retailers alike would appear to be increased powers to allow the Police or local Councils to take instant eviction action against them. Squatting in residential premises has been criminalised and I’m sure that both landlords and retailers would welcome this being extended to commercial property.”