Property consultant Cluttons is concerned that the law is too narrow and commercial properties are still very much at risk.
Julian Briant, head of the residential consultancy division at Cluttons, said: “Owners of empty commercial buildings need to be particularly careful as squatters start to search around for a new place to live.
“Sheds, office blocks, retail units and industrial buildings will all become fair game for squatters, for whom the risk of getting into residential properties is too great.
“The industry is pleased to see the Government recognising squatting as the devastating problem it is, but we feel the lack of clarification and transparency means the threat still very much remains, and we all need to be prepared for this.”
Gavin Pringle, spokesman for the Vacant Property Specialists (VPS), which manages empty properties, added: “With between 50,000 and 60,000 squatters in the UK, vacant buildings are in need of protection from intrusion, arson and vandalism.
“Unfortunately, the legislation applies only to residential property, leaving commercial buildings unprotected, and potentially at more risk, as squatters look to target them exclusively.”
Top tips on keeping your empty property safe from VPS
■ Inform your insurer as soon as the building becomes empty.
■ Undertake a risk assessment to assess potential risks, such as fire hazards and exposure to damage from squatters/criminals.
■ Isolate and shut down the power and gas supplies, drain water systems to avoid flooding.
■ Install a letter-box seal to prevent arsonists or squatters setting fire to the property.
■ A build-up of mail is a vital clue that a property is empty.
■ Ensure the perimeter of the property is secure and, where required, fit steel security fittings to windows and doors.
■ Instigate a minimum weekly inspection of the property.