Don’t underestimate the risks with empty buildings

As a property owner, if you know that your premises will become vacant, even for a short period, it pays to ask us how to deal with the many issues that will arise with empty buildings if they aren’t properly managed.

Vacant properties in London and throughout the UK are always vulnerable to unwanted attention from trespassers which increases the chances that owners will have to carry the responsibility and cost of malicious and accidental damage caused to the premises and even injury to the trespassers themselves.

We recently inspected a 45,000 sq ft multi storey mixed use property that was left vacant  by the previous owner between the exchange and completion of its sale to a well-known property developer.

During this time a group of metal thieves broke into the building and worked non-stop at stripping out the pipework, water cylinders, parts of the plant and any other metal they could find to sell for scrap.

The owner had not isolated the water supply before the previous tenants had vacated and by the time they discovered what had happened there was a huge flood and extensive water damage throughout the building to deal with.

In another instance a small fire started by vandals in a former industrial unit took hold due to combustible waste and junk that had not been cleared from the property providing fuel for the fire and causing extensive damage.

In both of these cases the buildings had been subject to weekly visits by a security company which was clearly not an adequate measure to protect the premises when compared to Property Guardian Protection’s guardians in occupation.

Owners’ responsibilities at vacant properties – Anything can happen

Owners or landlords of vacant properties are  open to liability claims from trespassers injuring themselves as a result of “negligence by the owners” at empty buildings.

There have been several instances of squatters bringing  large injury claims against the owners of the buildings that they are illegally occupying, notably the squatter who fell into a disused indoor swimming pool in a disused London building suffering serious injuries..

Even if the claimant was uninvited or squatting at the property illegally they could still be successful in their claim for damages if the owner cannot provide evidence  they were not negligent and the property was not left “unsafe”.

Getting it right from the start 

Correct property management and vacant property protection strategies are absolutely essential for the owner’s peace of mind and the security of the vacant building.

Every empty building presents different challenges but Property Guardian Protection work from the outset to ensure that our clients can focus on their day to day  business without the worry of dealing with issues arising at their vacant properties.

Property owners need to be prepared before their asset becomes vacant and must ensure they are covered by insurance for any liability that may arise.

All too often we are called out to a building once squatters have broken in or there has been vandalism or criminal activity at the site causing damage requiring significant time and expense to put right.

To avoid this we recommend that anyone with an empty building take the following steps:

Plan ahead and notify insurers that the property will be empty and implement any policy requirements that are specified so that insurance remains valid. Many insurers regard an empty property as higher risk and require action to be taken so that they are not at increased risk of claims.

Ensure that the building is properly locked up, hoarded or fenced-off and that services have been shut off or decommissioned. Alarm systems and CCTV installation are also standard policy conditions for vacant buildings with many insurers.

 

Despite these measures and the costs involved, the reality is that the property being unoccupied is where the substantial risk lies.

Simple occupation by Property Guardian Protection’s guardians solves this problem because when the building is occupied it cannot be squatted or invaded by trespassers.

This gives property owners peace of mind whilst removing security and maintenance costs as well as reducing empty rates and CIL liability.

For more information about managing empty buildings, placing property guardians in your vacant premises, reducing holding costs or finding the right insurance cover for your unoccupied property please contact PGP on 0203 889 7575 or info@propertyguardianprotection.com

We will visit the vacant property as soon as required, prepare a vacant property protection proposal for you and protect the building within 24 hours or sooner if needed.