Unoccupied Properties, are they safe?
Unoccupied properties can carry additional risks so it's important to know about the risks and how to manage them.
Vacant properties can carry additional risks to property owners, especially if properties are left vacant for long periods of time. Below are some of the risks facing owners and strategies that can be used to minimise them.
Criminal damage and theft
Vacant properties are at risk of crime. Either squatters or trespassers can cause considerable damage, with theft also a high risk. The property’s contents are in danger but also any fixtures or fittings, from pipework or boilers, which can be expensive to replace.
If properties are left vacant for long periods of time water damage poses more of a risk. If a pipe bursts or there is a small leak, without regular inspections and maintenance, this can escalate into significant water damage and even become more structurally serious.
Strategies to minimise the risk
- Consider the ease of which an intruder can gain entry
- Whether there are any contents in the property that is likely to attract thieves
- The security of items within the property
- Are there any hazards or defects that could potentially cause injury or harm to others
Steps to protecting properties and comply with your insurance
Regular checks - Carry out internal and external inspections of the buildings at least every seven days and maintain a weekly log of such inspections (retain for at least 12 months).
Security is essential - Securely lock all external doors, close and secure all windows, and secure and seal all letter boxes and openings.
Maintain the property - Overgrown gardens, fly posters and graffiti suggest the property is vacant, remove all loose combustible items, including furniture, pallets, waste, refuse, stock and materials in trade, and gas bottles, either within or outside the buildings.
Switch off utilities - Turn off all sources of power, fuel and water at the mains and wherever possible, chain and padlock the isolation valves, drain all water and fuel supply tanks, apparatus and pipes.
The exception - If the buildings are protected by an intruder Alarm, CCTV or Fire Detection System there should be sufficient power for their effective operation.
You need to make sure you have informed your insurer and have the correct insurance in place if a commercial property is to be left unoccupied.