Ex-squaddies to 'squat proof' property for £2.6K/wk

Zardoz tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Dec 3 14:25:40 GMT 2009

Security firm will protect properties round the clock for £2,600 a week

Peter Dominiczak

Wealthy homeowners are turning to private security firms to protect their empty London properties from squatters at a cost of up to £2,600 a week.

One company is set to "squat proof" hundreds of houses and even offers ways of getting unwanted guests to leave. 

It comes after the Standard revealed that squatters were regularly targeting properties worth up to £50million in Belgravia and Mayfair, which are often owned by investors hiding their identities behind offshore companies.

According to the Empty Homes Agency there are more than 80,000 empty properties in London, or 2.5 per cent of all homes. A growing number are properties bought by foreign investors who want a secure asset but continue to live elsewhere.

Forbes Risk, a security company predominantly staffed by former members of the armed forces, offers a range of "squat proofing" measures which they say will turn a potential squat into an "inhabited property", making any attempt to enter the property illegal.

For a six-storey Belgravia townhouse, their basic package would cost about £1,700. The property would be professionally sealed, meaning squatters would be unable to gain entry without causing criminal damage. A client would have to pay around £2,600 per week for 24-hour protection. 

Andrew Walker, a director of Forbes Risk, said: "We have a lot of wealthy clients who for obvious reasons do not want squatters in their properties. Squatting, particularly in wealthier parts of London, is becoming an epidemic. 

"We have some crazy laws in this country and squatters are realising just how easy it is to get in very expensive homes. We have ways to get these people out for our clients."

Last month a group of squatters occupied a house doors away from the home of the ex-wife of Chelsea billionaire Roman Abramovich and the couple's five children. 

"Squatters cause a lot of hassle. Mrs Abramovich, for example, has a young family and was understandably alarmed," said Mr Walker. 

Latest figures from the Empty Homes Agency show that the number of empty properties in Westminster, which includes Mayfair, Belgravia and Marylebone, stood at 3,584 at the end of last year. At least 2,512 homes stood empty in Kensington and Chelsea, 1,654 in Islington and 3,627 in Barnet. 

David Ireland, chief executive with the Empty Homes Agency, said: "Off-shore account owners are exploiting a tax loophole. They don't have to pay capital gains tax and many of them simply treat these properties as an investment and allow them to sit empty, never intending to occupy them."

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