Securing and managing a vacant property

15 April 2019

Unoccupied property needs to be managed to prevent or limit issues that can lead to damage and additional cost.

Empty building

By taking a proactive approach, you can protect your premises so they remain a valuable asset for future development or sale. 

Vacant property risks

When a property is unoccupied for a period of time it may suffer damage due to:

  • Fire caused by arson or a defective electrical installation 
  • Vandalism including malicious damage and graffiti 
  • Theft e.g. damage to the building when gaining access, theft of building materials and contents 
  • General deterioration caused by adverse weather or water ingress, possibly as a consequence of lack of maintenance 
  • Squatters.

Identifying risks at your premises can help you to reduce loss or damage occurring. Carrying out a risk assessment of the vacant property will help you identify any hazards and weak spots.

Securing vacant buildings

When a property appears to be empty, it can look like a soft target for criminals. As a property owner you need to protect your premises from intruders and malicious damage. You should take measures to:

  • Deter any potential intruders
    Introduce additional security measures, visual deterrents and maintenance of the property.
  • Detect any intrusion at the earliest opportunity so any damage is minimised
    Conduct routine inspections and provide alarm protection.
  • Manage lawful entry to the premises 
    Review existing safety arrangements for the property and implement any additional controls to ensure the safety of visitors. Our unoccupied property guidance goes into detail about how to secure your buildings.
Protecting a vacant property

Vacant property insurance

You should always let your insurer or broker know if your property is likely to be vacant for for an extended period, typically 30 days or more.  They will usually apply slightly different terms to your insurance and provide advice on how best to protect the property.

Vacant property inspections

It may be a requirement of your insurance cover that unoccupied buildings are inspected by you, or your appointed representative, on at least a weekly basis. It is recommended that all visits are formally recorded. 

This is to ensure that if damage has occurred it can be rectified at the earliest opportunity, preventing any further damage.
Water leaks, for example, may start off fairly small but if left undetected for long periods of time damage can build up and become severe. 
Where damage is crime related, it should be reported to your insurers and the police. A vacant property inspection checklist template can be found in our unoccupied property guidance.