The damaging impact of squatting in pubs

By Rob Willock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Property

Rob Willock: "Empty pubs are plainly the next most attractive choice for squatters after residential property"
Rob Willock: "Empty pubs are plainly the next most attractive choice for squatters after residential property"
The issue of squatting is an emotive one — not least when it affects your own, or neighbouring, properties. But in a densely populated country that has an acute need for more homes, many would argue that it is immoral for residential property owners to leave houses and flats unoccupied.

And whether or not you subscribe to the idea that squatting is born of necessity or political activism, if freeholders are doing nothing with these dwellings, why not allow those who are homeless through circumstance or choice to live in them?

Maybe that argument would succeed if squatters typically left the properties on request and as they found them, when the owners chose to use them again.

But plainly that is rarely the case, as the anarchic attitude typically displayed by squatters — and the criminality so often associated with squatting — is not conducive to reason and negotiation, let alone housekeeping and property maintenance.


The Government finally recognised the cost and inconvenience caused to residential property owners by squatting and made the practice illegal in September 2012, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.

But crucially the legislation — set out in Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) — did not cover squatting in non-residential buildings, such as disused factories, warehouses or pubs. And while there have been backbencher amendments proposed to close this loophole, they seem unlikely to make it on to the statute books for the time being.

With the country’s estimated 50,000 squatters now denied access to residential dwellings, empty pubs are plainly the next most attractive choice, containing as they do all the various services and facilities (usually including purpose-built accommodation) that are necessary to make squatting comfortable.

Where better to exercise your rights to an alternative lifestyle than in someone else’s pub, complete with bar?


There are many reasons why pub-owners might wish to close a site for a period of time, not all of which will garner universal sympathy. But it’s hard to think why they should be denied the same protection as home-owners.

Squatting in pubs can have a damaging effect on their business prospects, jeopardise the livelihood of their owners and cause anxiety among neighbouring communities.

Initial Government action to discourage squatting in residential properties risks having the opposite effect on pubs. As such, we — as an industry — must continue to press for that extension of LASPO Section 144 to cover non-residential properties.

And meanwhile, pub-owners who wish or need to vacate their properties temporarily should take sensible steps to keep them safe, including isolating and shutting down the power supplies; draining water systems; securing the perimeter of the property; and fitting steel security fittings to windows and doors. Regular inspections of the property are also advised.

Related topics Legislation

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