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PROPERTYADVICE

How to maintain your empty property and protect your investment

Active management of empty property helps to retain value and avoid buildings falling into disrepair. Not only is it less expensive to undertake ongoing maintenance than a major upgrade, it can also reduce your liability should someone get hurt on the premises; there have been cases where intruders have sued property owners because they have injured themselves while trespassing!

As soon as your property becomes vacant you should notify your insurer, as this constitutes a change in occupation and must be declared due to the increased risk. To maintain cover on unoccupied properties, most insurance companies will have extra requirements, leading to increased premiums.

Policies vary but some things you may be expected to do:

  • Accessible openings must be secured and letterboxes sealed
  • Services must be turned off and plumbing drained
  • Rubbish and combustible materials must be removed
  • External doors must be fitted with bolts or a 5 level mortice deadlock
  • The property should be inspected at least weekly by a reputable property specialist and a log kept of all visits

Making a claim can be problematic if policies become void due to non-compliance with any of the insurer’s conditions. Regular inspections are a good way to identify potential problems before they occur. Owners can undertake a basic level of care, such as clearing out drains and checking roofs, to ensure properties are maintained to a level acceptable to insurers.

If you have to make a claim your position is stronger if you can produce evidence of regular inspections.The longer a property remains vacant, the more it is exposed to risk, so it is essential to have security arrangements in place.

Theft of metal from vacant premises has escalated over the last few years.  The problem is not just the theft of materials but the resultant damage caused to fabric and service systems within the building.

If your property becomes vacant you should:

  • Let your insurer know as soon as possible, even if it is only partly vacant
  • Check the details of your insurance cover carefully and note any changes to the cover
  • Conduct an assessment of the risks to your property
  • Act on any risks identified to protect your investment
  • Arrange regular inspections so any changes to the property condition can be noted promptly

As well as retaining value and avoiding falling foul of insurance requirements, active management of vacant properties can ensure the property is always well presented for viewing purposes.