Reducing the risks of managing your empty property

If one of your properties becomes vacant, you take on the responsibility for an empty building or purchase a property which will not be occupied, here are some handy tips on minimising risks, keeping your property secure and reducing any additional costs.

1. Risk Assessments

Your risk assessment should comply with The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 (on fire safety), the latest Health & Safety, Environmental and Public Liability Legislation. It should also consider the most likely risks to empty properties which include water damage, squatters, fire and vandalism so make sure you consider what measures you can put in place to mitigate these risks.

2. Duty of Care (even for trespassers!)

Not only does the property owner have a duty of care for those you allow into your vacant property but also to unauthorised personnel such as trespassers. Surveyors, potential purchasers, those carrying out maintenance work, employees conducting inspections are all included in this list as well as children using your property as a playground or intruders who have criminal activities in mind. You have some responsibility for their safety even if you have not authorised their access.

3. Arrange vacant property insurance

It is advisable to notify your insurers that the property has become empty to make sure you have sufficient cover in the unfortunate event of a claim.  Most insurers will be able to offer a bespoke policy to suit your requirements.

4. Arrange vacant property inspections

Your insurer is likely to stipulate the frequency your property should be inspected (usually every 7 or 14 days) and your insurance may be void if the inspections are not carried out on time. It is therefore worth thinking about a back-up plan in the event of your appointed person being unable to carry out the inspections on the arranged day. It may be more reliable to appoint a vacant property specialist who will take on the responsibility of ensuring inspections are not missed.

5. Taking evidence of your inspections

Your insurer may advise you to check certain areas or vulnerable parts of your property and in the event of a claim, you could be asked for evidence of when that specific area of the building was checked. Think about how you can take evidence of your inspections, especially anything which will confirm the time and date of the inspection. Vacant property specialists will have software they use to do this on your behalf as well as storing the data for use in the future, should you ever need it.

6. Quality of inspections

It is unlikely that your insurer will be happy for someone to just take a quick look inside the door of the property and then leave it, assuming no obvious issues means everything else is okay. Make sure you understand exactly what level of detail your insurer expects from an inspection and that if they do specify that certain parts of the building are checked, this is done… every single time. A body worn camera may assist in demonstrating the quality of the inspection.

7. Lone worker protection

If you choose to appoint an employee or company director to carry out property inspections, consider how you will take care of their safety whilst they are working alone. Ensure you know when the inspections are planned, arrange a time for contact to be made with them after inspections and put an escalation process in place should the person not be contactable after each inspection. Consider personal safety devices such as a self-defence keychain or personal alarm as well as a body worn camera or fitting a car tracker so you can check their location in the event of not being able to get in touch.

8. Temporary Security measures

There are all sorts of temporary security devices on the market, from intruder alarms, CCTV, fire alarms and perimeter detection as well as forensic marking to help deter criminals or recover stolen items in the event of a break in. When you identify the risks to your property, do some research on which security measures could be put in place to mitigate them. A small initial outlay of such equipment may prevent bigger costs in the future or avoidable insurance claims.

9. Deter, delay, detect strategy

If you can deter trespassers in the first place and put things in place to help prevent flood or fire damage, this will take away a lot of hassle in the future. Having appropriate security systems in place will delay unauthorised entry to your property. Carrying out property inspections and using appropriate security technology to detect a problem as early as possible, will reduce the potential damage or level of vulnerability to your property.

10. Deal with the simple things first

There’s a number of things you can do straight away to help secure your empty property – Change the locks if you are unsure who else may have keys to your property; close and lock all windows; take photos of the condition of the building if you have just taken on responsibility for it; take utility meter readings and photographic evidence of them should you have a problem with the utility supplier in the future; switch off the gas, electric and water (keep the electrical circuit to the intruder alarm); drain the water system to avoid frozen pipes in the winter months; seal the letter box to reduce fire risk from post building up in the entrance and remove any combustible items.

If you need any specific advice on managing your property, please do not hesitate to contact our team on 01527 889180.