2. Vacant Property Insurance
Firstly, it goes without saying that it is crucial to ensure that a vacant commercial premises is covered by insurance. The risks are are too great not to. In fact, Insurer Zurich Insurance plc reports that since 2004 there has been an increase of around 2,500 per cent in the total cost of losses over £25,000 for its real estate clients.
Morag Keohane, Insurance Manager at Caxtons Chartered Surveyors, said: “If you own a commercial property that has become vacant you need to inform your insurer immediately. Taking precautions to manage risk and prevent any type of theft, including metal, and criminal or accidental damage, is vital to ensure the policy does not become invalid.”
Nelson Policies highlight that an unoccupied commercial building, such as a pub, bar or restaurant is vulnerable to theft, vandalism and damage. Vacant buildings are more likely to attract unwanted visitors as they act as easy targets to vandalise and be broken into. Due to the increased risk of vacant commercial property, if the building is left unoccupied for more than 30 days at a time, standard commercial property insurance policies would not be adequate.
An unoccupied commercial property policy is often more difficult to arrange compared to a standard commercial property insurance policy. Where insurers may expect additional precautions, landlords will be expected to implement a series of measures including installing an approved intruder alarm and monitored CCTV. These measures can reduce insurance premiums, most insurers will ask if these are present at a vacant premises.
3. Ensure Adequate Lighting
When used in conjunction with CCTV, lighting becomes a powerful tool for security operators to quickly identify and act upon illegal or dangerous activity. Especially when that security lighting is IR. Without security lighting, CCTV during night time hours becomes a tricky game of “spot the intruder”. We have published an article to help with lighting considerations for your site:
4. Monitored Alarm System
Fire & intruder alarms present at an empty property should be regularly tested and maintained to ensure they are working. Alarm monitoring is a key service that gives peace of mind 24/7 that if the worst should happen at your empty property, trained security monitoring professionals can respond quickly and escalate the situation to relevant emergency services. It is worth noting that current UK fire alarm regulations state that all business premises must have ‘an appropriate fire detection system’ – especially if the property is vacant.
5. Access Control
Controlling access to your vacant property is essential. This may be a simple as ensuring windows and doors are locked and secure, but the harder it is for unauthorised intruders to gain access the better. It is advisable to board up windows or install steel shutters were possible and even permanently block up letterboxes. Locks and access codes should be changed to ensure only authorised persons can gain access.
In some circumstances, where it is necessary for various people to access the vacant property, such as trades or letting agents etc., remote access control can be employed to give peace of mind that only authorised access to the site is possible, without the need for keyholders to be in attendance or keys being shared.
6. Perimeter fencing & barriers
Ensuring good perimeter security is a basic necessity to deter easy access to an empty property by opportunists. The type of perimeter security will vary depending on the type and locations of the empty property. This can range from wooden hoardings like those used on construction sites to wire mesh, palisades or high specialised security perimeter fencing. It is also advisable to display warning signs as a powerful visual deterrent around the perimeter of the property.
Where there may be open access, such as entrances to car parks for example, barriers are good idea. These can be anything from concrete blocks to water filled containers, but it is important to stop to deter fly-tipping and unauthorised vehicle access to the property.
7. Ensure regular checks and maintenance
It is important to visit the empty property regularly to ensure there are no signs of entry, damage or theft. In addition, enlisting the support of neighbours to keep an eye on the property can be worthwhile too. Regular maintenance checks on fencing, security equipment is essential to ensure your empty property security is optimised and working.
Looking out for graffiti, rubbish or waste present on the property is crucial as this can show signs that the property is vulnerable to trespass. Prompt removal of these is key to minimising the risk of fire, arson and criminal damage.
8. Isolate non-essential services
To minimise risks such as water damage and fire from gas supply, it is advised that all non-essential services are isolated. Remember to consider what services may be required however, for example for security lighting, alarms or CCTV for example.
9. Removal of equipment, fittings & fixtures
Whilst many empty properties may be void of equipment like tools or furniture – equipment such as radiators or sinks may be valuable to metal thieves. Where possible these should be removed to reduce this temptation. Lead work such as guttering, pipes or roofing can be coated with silver paint which vastly reduces their metal resale value.
Using anti-climb paint on equipment and metal work to stop both thieves and thrill seeking trespassers from gaining access to your site. This paint is non-drying and marks clothes and skin. (This should only be applied above 2.4 m from the ground and must be clearly signposted to comply with the Occupiers Liability Act 1984)
10. Using a forensic solution
Forensic solutions, such as SmartWater or SelectaDNA (a Crimestoppers supported product) can be used to security mark your property which may provide a deterrent to would be thieves as well as aiding the recovery of stolen equipment or goods.
Farsight want to help you to protect empty pub premises…
It is not easy protecting empty properties from trespass, theft and criminal damage, but taking the time to plan the best security measures to employ for your empty property will pay dividends and give you peace of mind that you have done everything possible to secure your site. We hope the above article has given you some insight.
For more information empty property protection and Who and Where the threats come from, read Farsight’s Comprehensive Guide to Empty Property Security