Imagine a scenario where Travellers occupy a site and therefore you need to take quick and effective action for them to vacate.
If this is say an office park, the resulting disturbance and issues can includ reduced parking, litter, damaged bin stores, verbal language, and an impact on businesses for the time they were there, including staff needing to actually leave the properties.
Understandably, this is a problem for any property owner or occupier, and often suddenly occurs with you needing to look at options really quickly.
Therefore, here are five main issues you would need to consider in the midst of similar issues or to think about as a pro-active, preventative measure.
These are neither exhaustive nor in-depth, but rather an overview of the different aspects to be considered:
1. Work Out Who is Responsible
Not only who is directly responsible as the land-owner or responsible-occupier through a lease, but also, who will then have to pay any costs. So a landlord may be responsible to resolve this issue, but costs can be recovered through a service charge to other owners or occupiers. If you’re unsure, clarify with sources like Land Registry and legal documentation.
Also, do check that the area is not public land that the local authority and police need to be involved with.
Regarding payments, clarify if you have access to large sums of money to immediately pay bills, or check whether you need to look at raising an additional charge or increase a service charge straight away. Even though a lease or agreement may not permit this, people may be willing to still pay in order to see such immediate tangible benefits.
2. Understand Where The Police Can Get Involved
If public land, then authorities – e.g. the police and council - will need to be involved anyway, although even with private land where they will not be able to take direct action, there are two scenarios where they may be able to help. Firstly, for any criminal damage and harassment, and secondly where they may attend any private eviction to make sure the peace is kept.
Keeping in dialogue with them is helpful, and simply having them turn up as a presence on site can help give the right impression. Reporting any issues with a crime reference number may be needed for any future insurance claims.
3. Removing Travellers Can Take Two Routes
Firstly, to apply to the County Court for an order to have them removed - which will result in the court bailiff attending your site. However this can be both costly and timely, and even though the verdict can stick for any future instances, it will apply to individuals who can of course change in future.
Secondly, to take reasonable efforts to remove, which practically is best done through a specialist firm who will know the fine line between what’s permissible and what is not. This is under Common Law and particularly the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994, and involves an eviction notice to all unlawful occupiers, followed a day or so later by attendance requesting them to leave.
This often results in arranging for trucks to come and tow vehicles away, and the trigger point when Travellers & Gypsies will move on, but only after the expense of arranging these to actually attend site ready to take action if needs be.
4. Be Ready to Clear Up The Mess
This is often in the form of litter and dumped items, but there can be property repairs to attend to, and even human and animal excrement that will need specialist cleaning services. Check the whole site, not just where they have been, and time this to happen just after they finally vacate.
5. Take Measures to Stop This Happening Again
In short, create a barrier preventing them congregating on site again, often at night or evenings when others are not around. Erect fences or concrete barriers if possible, and focus on the points where vehicles can drive onto land, through measures like a barrier system.
Take into account the time to arrange (and pay) for these, so consider any temporary measures like pop-up bollards to stop access in the meantime, although do make sure you immediately circulate access-codes for permitted visitors to use and for someone to open and close at the correct times.
Other measures may allow vehicle access but limited to car sizes through side posts, or goal-posts limiting the height, although remember that these can limit other vehicles like delivery lorries.
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