Looking after unoccupied property
8th December 2015
Unoccupied premises are often an inevitable consequence of owning a property portfolio. Evidence shows that the prospect of damage or injury arising from empty buildings is high, even if only temporarily vacant. Each year there are over 9,000 fires in empty buildings.
Other common problems include – theft of contents or fixtures, vandalism, fly tipping and occupation by squatters. Empty buildings are also at risk of water damage due to inadequate maintenance/repairs, especially when coupled with infrequent site visits.
It is also important to note that as the owner you have a legal ‘duty of care’ to third parties; such as authorised people entering the premises, whether they are employees, estate agents, surveyors, buyers or even trespassers including children who may simply use the area as an unofficial playground.
The degree of risk varies with locality, neighbourhood, crime history, security, general management, length of unoccupancy and perceived attractiveness of contents. We have put together the following guide to help you manage and plan for unoccupied properties:
Neighbourhood/Locality – Check what crime is like in the area – if necessary refer to local residents and the local police crime prevention unit.
Avoid an Empty, Unsupervised Appearance – Keep lawn/hedges tidy – maintain a ‘cared for’ appearance, promptly repair any damage incurred, redirect post.
Fire and Malicious Ignition – Remove rubbish (both internal and external), unnecessary furniture and excess combustible items, seal up the letter box.
Services – Ensure all but essential services are ‘off’. Drain down water and turn gas and electricity off unless essential for maintaining heating, fire systems, security lights or alarms.
Fences, Sheds, Garages, Outbuildings – Deter people from approaching the house, repair breaches in fences/ hedges.
Contents – Remove contents of value, retaining only any needed for keeping a normal appearance, e.g. curtains. It is usually advisable to remove all contents to reduce the fire risk. Lofts should be cleared.
Intruder Alarms – Consider an alarm for large premises.
Windows – Ground floor and vulnerable upper floor windows (overlooking accessible roofs, or next to downpipes) should be secured with key operated window locks or screw fixed.
Public Liability – To minimise causing injury, watch out for: Loose masonry or roof tiles/slates, rubble, rubbish, glass, protruding nails, jagged edges, Ease of access onto roofs, from which trespassers could fall.
To obtain an insurance quotation for an unoccupied property please contact Horner Blakey Insurance Brokers on 020 7929 0108.
Author: Nick Horner.