Masked squatters who moved into a former Cardiff pub last week have left the building after its owners spent thousands of pounds launching legal action.
The activists, believed to be from a group calling themselves the Gremlins, began occupying the Bute Dock Hotel in Cardiff Bay on November 20 after informing its owners they had gained possession.
But the squatters left the premises on Tuesday afternoon after nearby letting agency Keylet, which owns the building, ensured a High Court order was issued immediately.
Keylet staff discovered smashed windows, broken locks and graffiti on inside walls after the squatters left the premises, which was being used by the company for storage.
Keylet’s managing director Peter Vidler said the ordeal, which cost thousands to resolve, left him and his staff “distressed and anxious”.
He urged landlords across the city to educate themselves on their rights and to be wary of squatters.
He said: “The financial costs involved in reclaiming your own property are significant and it is important to highlight that not all property owners have easy access to this amount of money.
“It is important therefore that individuals spread the word to ensure their properties are safe.”
The Gremlins also occupy the derelict Spin bowling alley on City Road, which has been daubed in messages understood to be in response to the imprisonment of London squatter Alex Haigh.
Last month, he became the first person jailed for squatting in the UK.
Squatting was previously treated as a civil matter but the maximum penalty is now six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.
Mr Vidler said recent changes in law have resulted in squatters targeting non-residential buildings.
Following its legal battle, Keylet plans to actively support tackling homelessness in Cardiff by fundraising for the YMCA’s Sleep Easy event in 2013.
Mr Vidler said: “We feel strongly that differentiation needs to be made in regards to genuinely homeless people and ‘squatters’.
“Though we do not support activists and their threatening, we do believe that homelessness in Cardiff and the UK needs urgent attention.”
Included in an online statement about their occupation of the Bute Dock Hotel, the Gremlins said: “Our initial aims were to reclaim this unoccupied space to re-open it for the use of the community, by opening a squatters’ estate agents “freelet”, hosting regular cafe nights, films, talks, discussions, workshops and much more.”