Unoccupied Commercial Property Risks

When a commercial property becomes vacant the risk of fire, theft, damage and liability issues increases. Below we have listed some simple yet necessary ways to protect unoccupied commercial premises...
Risk Assessment
With all commercial property, not just unoccupied risks, it is important that a comprehensive risk assessment covering fire, theft and general safety has been undertaken. An important part of the risk assessment is the locality of the premises, to be able to identify the local crime rate; whether the property in question is in a prominent or secluded area; who may be attracted to the site (thieves, vandals, vagrants, squatters, children); and the security of the site perimeter.
To someone who is looking for shelter, unoccupied buildings may be enticing. In addition to the potential for vandalism, trespassers may set fires to provide heat. Remove combustible unfixed contents or waste. Drain and isolate flammable liquid storage tanks and ensure that these can’t be accessed by any children who may be trespassing. 
Remove liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders and portable heaters from the site. Ensure the fire alarms and sprinklers are in good working order and remain operational.
Water Damage
Disconnect utilities at the perimeter of the building. Drain water tanks, pipes and apparatus except those used for the sprinkler system. Protect sprinkler pipes from freezing and clean any storm water drainage and gutters.
Copper and lead are traditionally the choice of metal thieves, but scrap metal prices mean that cables, pipes, taps and boilers are also desirable. Ensure locks and boundaries are strong and well maintained and that windows and skylights are secured or boarded up. 
Check that alarms and security lighting are in good working order.
Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984, the unoccupied building’s owner has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent access to the building and prevent injury to anyone accessing the premises – welcome or unwelcome.
This duty of care should involve repairing or removing structural defects, removing hazardous materials from the site, covering and signposting any pits or cellars, though there may be a language barrier. Although squatting in residential buildings has been illegal since 2012, the law on commercial premises has not changed, and many owners of vacant business properties have experienced problems with squatters. They can prove costly to evict and damage the property while inside, for instance by illegally reconnecting utilities. If the building is well maintained, it is much less likely to attract attention. Weekly, daylight, recorded internal and external checks are advisable.
What to do next? 
If you would more information about risk management in unoccupied properties, or to discuss any other risk or insurance need, please give us a call. 
Call 01789 761660

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