“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”. Dickens’ famous introduction to the Tale of Two Cities could eerily be describing Britain and the wider world in 2020, rather than only London and Paris in 1789. The country is in turmoil. We continue to see examples of incredible selflessness amongst our dedicated NHS staff and other key workers, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice – the best of human nature.
But this is not another tale of two cities. This is a tale of the best and worst sides of human nature in a crisis as the country experienced the pain of lockdown, the gradual easing-up and now the threat of lockdown looming again, albeit in localised areas.
It’s a cycle that’s likely to repeat.
TOUGH TIMES FOR LANDLORDS AND PROPERTY OWNERS.
As the weeks and months have progressed, the stories of mindless vandalism and theft, illegal squatting and fly-tipping has increased almost daily.
Lockdown was a nightmare for landlords and property owners who have seen rents go unpaid and property vacated as people escaped the cities to return home for a variety of reasons: their health, their finances or their safety.
And just as house viewings and sales came to a virtual standstill, so it was with the lettings market. Vast numbers of residential and commercial premises sat empty in addition to the millions of mothballed shops, offices and leisure outlets across the country.
All of which is a tempting target for those who represent the negative side of human nature… and are leading proponents of the worst of times and the age of foolishness.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.
Wanton vandalism on an empty property can be anything from spray-painted graffiti through to lead or tiles stripped from the roof, broken windows, theft of anything inside with a scrap value, to arson. However, this can be prevented, or the risk significantly reduced if adequate security is in place. This could include steel security screens covering vulnerable doors and windows, electronic alarms, CCTV and video verified alarms. The latter sending a short video clip identifying the source of the activation directly to a landlord or security firm.
Physical security is as much about trying to prevent a break-in as it is about providing a deterrent. In either case, the cost of security services is likely to be a small price to pay to avoid the high cost of reparations to the often shocking state property is left in once squatters or vandals have left. Often this can run into tens of thousands of pounds.
The accompanying stress and anxiety are priceless.
WHOSE SIDE IS THE LAW ON?
Squatting in residential property is breaking the law so an eviction order can easily be sought, but commercial property is different.
On 27th March, a new civil procedural rule was introduced as part of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and came in with immediate effect. PD 51Z* put a 90-day stay on all possession proceedings.
Evidence of unlawful or criminal damage has to be demonstrated, the police called, and a peaceful resolution sought. Force should not be used, or the landlord could be accused of criminal activity. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair.
If a peaceful resolution cannot be agreed, only then can the matter go to court for a repossession order and bailiffs sent in. All this takes time, money and a lot of patience. It will be protracted because of the 90-day order under PD 51Z. As things begin to return to any kind of normal, there will undoubtedly be a deluge of proceedings, making everything take even longer.
THE MENACE THAT IS FLY-TIPPING.
Since lockdown began, fly-tipping has been and continues to be, rife. With limited options to dispose of rubbish and other waste at council refuse centres, incidents of fly-tipping have increased exponentially, requiring fly-tipping removal company to handle it. It is a menace that besets society.
Unprotected empty properties, especially those with a large driveway, open ground or car park, make ideal sites for the illegal dumping of waste. However, keeping fly-tippers out is a relatively simple business with physical security. Concrete barriers strategically positioned across any access routes or entrances will effectively prevent vehicle ingress. In the vast majority of cases, this will prevent individuals from being able to drive a vehicle to illegally offload their waste.
Specialist concrete barriers can also integrate Heras fencing panels, providing a 3m+ high physical barrier that will help prevent trespassing or squatting. Anything that places a difficult to negotiate, physical barrier between would-be perpetrators and a vulnerable property is a sensible move.
THE WORST OF HUMAN NATURE.
Fly-tippers, squatters and vandals are generally ahead of the game, spreading the word on the best places to dump waste. It’s not unheard of for a commercial property to be vacated and have several hundred tons of waste dumped in its grounds in a single night, incurring expenses for commercial rubbish removal services.
Don’t be wise after the event and don’t leave it to chance as the worst of human nature will always get the better of you.
Take professional advice as to the best way to protect your property assets before it’s too late.