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Squatting in the UK: Growing Threat to Commercial Properties

Updated: Apr 5

Squatting in commercial properties has become a major issue in the UK due to the cost of living crisis and lack of affordable housing. This has resulted in vandalism, waste accumulation, drug use, and arson. Learn what security measures can property owners take to reduce the likelihood of their vacant properties being targeted.

homeless male seated outside of a commercial building
Squatting in the UK has become a major issue

Over the past few years, squatting in commercial properties has become an increasingly pressing issue in the UK. The growing cost of living crisis, combined with a lack of affordable housing, has resulted in more people seeking refuge in abandoned buildings.

This has given rise to a myriad of problems, including vandalism, waste accumulation, drug use, and arson.

In this blog post, we'll explore the extent of this problem, discuss the common profile of squatters, and outline some practical security measures that commercial property owners can take to reduce the likelihood of their properties being targeted.

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The Growing Problem of Squatting in the UK

According to recent data, there are an estimated 20,000 squatters in the UK, a number that has been steadily increasing over the past decade. The issue has been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, which has left many individuals and families struggling to afford basic necessities. As a result, some have resorted to squatting in commercial properties as a means of survival.

Squatting Risks to Commercial Properties

Squatting in commercial properties poses various risks to property owners, local communities, and the squatters themselves. Some of the main concerns include:


Squatters may damage properties by breaking windows or doors, spray-painting graffiti, or causing other types of destruction.

Accumulation of waste:

The lack of proper sanitation facilities can result in waste accumulation, leading to health hazards and environmental pollution.

Drug use:

The prevalence of drug use among some squatters can lead to increased crime and antisocial behaviour in the surrounding area.


In some cases, fires may be deliberately or accidentally started, posing a significant risk to the property and surrounding structures.

Profile of Squatters in Commercial Properties

While it is difficult to provide a definitive profile of squatters, they tend to share some common characteristics.

Many squatters are vulnerable individuals facing homelessness due to unemployment, mental health issues, addiction, or a combination of these factors. They often resort to squatting in commercial properties as a last resort, seeking shelter and safety from the streets.

Squatting in commercial properties is often a symptom of a larger issue in society, where vulnerable individuals face difficult circumstances and find themselves with limited options.

It is important to understand the common characteristics of these squatters to better address the problem and develop effective solutions.


Many squatters have lost their jobs or face difficulties in finding stable employment. This can result from various factors, such as economic downturns, lack of education, or limited job opportunities.

Mental health issues:

Squatters may struggle with mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, or other disorders. These issues can contribute to their difficulty in maintaining stable housing or employment.


Substance abuse is prevalent among some squatters, as they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for their challenging circumstances. This can further complicate their ability to secure stable housing or employment.

History of homelessness:

Some squatters have experienced homelessness in the past, making it more difficult for them to access housing due to a lack of references or rental history.

Lack of support network:

Many squatters lack a strong support network, such as family or friends, who can provide assistance during difficult times. This can result in a sense of isolation and make it more challenging to overcome their circumstances.

Legal issues:

Some squatters may have legal problems, such as outstanding fines, criminal records, or immigration issues, which can hinder their ability to secure stable housing or employment.

Escaping domestic violence or abuse:

In some cases, individuals may turn to squatting in commercial properties as a way to escape abusive or dangerous situations at home.

It is crucial to recognise that squatters in commercial properties are often individuals in desperate need of assistance and support.

Addressing the root causes of their circumstances and providing access to essential services, such as mental health care, addiction treatment, and employment support, can contribute to long-term solutions for both the squatters and the wider community.

Security Measures to protect your property from squatters

Commercial property owners can take several security measures to protect their properties from squatters:

Regular inspections:

Carry out frequent inspections of the property to identify signs of unauthorised entry and address any potential security vulnerabilities.

Secure access points:

Ensure that all windows, doors, and other entry points are securely locked and consider installing security grilles or shutters for added protection.

Install alarm systems:

Fit a monitored alarm system that will alert you or a security company if an intrusion is detected.


Install CCTV cameras in and around the property to act as a deterrent and provide evidence in case of unauthorised entry.

Employ security guards:

Consider employing security guards or a property guardian to patrol and safeguard the property.

Clear the property:

Remove any items that might be of use to squatters, such as furniture, bedding, or appliances, to make the property less appealing.

Engage with the community:

Inform local businesses and residents about the property's vacancy and encourage them to report any suspicious activity.


The rising problem of squatting in commercial properties is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach.

By understanding the risks and taking appropriate security measures, property owners can help protect their assets and reduce the likelihood of their properties being targeted by squatters.

At the same time, addressing the root causes of squatting, such as the cost of living crisis and lack of affordable housing, is crucial for achieving long-term solutions to this growing problem.

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