Terrace Guest House in Royal Terrace, which overlooks Adventure Island, Southend-on-Sea, is now believed to house up to 30 people who moved in after squatters allegedly posed as workmen and took over the building. Now neighbours are concerned that the vacant hotel has been turned into a drug den.
There are many stories of squatters taking over and moving large groups into vacant properties, such as our earlier hot topic on the Royal Mint, but it is an even greater concern when criminals start to operate their illegal activity from the premises. There is an increased risk of vandalism and arson, as well as potential damage to the owner’s reputation.
The squatters claim to have a legal right to dwell in the property as it’s a non-residential building and so isn’t protected by section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. This is why Orbis urges property owners and managers to consider the need for a professional vacant property management expert. Sites can be assessed and fitted with a bespoke solution to property against intruders and would be squatters.
Residents and reporters from the local paper have witnessed people waiting across the road from the hotel and signalling to an upper window, before being allowed into the property and then leaving hours later looking ‘bleary-eyed’. Unfortunately, the police won’t intervene as squatting is a civil matter and the leaseholders will have to seek an interim possession order.
However, this will take time and in the meantime the property could be getting damaged, the owner’s reputation may be suffering and repair costs will be mounting. Ideally, properties need to be professionally secured to prevent illegal entry from ever happening, thus avoiding the cost and stress caused.