With a number of companies in the UK now considering remote working to be a long-term solution, the number of commercial premises sitting empty is on the rise. As with residential property, an unoccupied building is likely to have an increased risk of theft, vandalism, and escape of water, in particular, all issues that would be significantly reduced if the building was regularly occupied.
Insurers recognize the level of increased risk and may restrict cover, apply additional conditions, or may be unable to cover it at all. Therefore if you haven’t already, it is worthwhile checking your current insurance policy. You may be better off considering a more specialist commercial unoccupied property policy.
How to manage an unoccupied commercial property
1. Clear the site
If a site looks like it’s been unoccupied for a while, it automatically becomes a target, so it is important to make it seem as in-use as possible. Remove anything from outside of the property, such as pallets, materials, etc., and ensure all of the bins are emptied. If any mail that’s posted can be seen through a window or door glass, ensure they are removed regularly, the mail is redirected, or install a cage to collect the mail that way.
It is also worth clearing any fridges, freezers, cupboards, and desks for any food products that could expire and go out-of-date.
2. Test the security and fire protection
Even if you don’t have remote signaling in place, it is worth ensuring that your fire alarm and burglar alarm systems are in operation. Although it comes at an additional cost, it is probably a good time to consider remote signaling so that you, or the authorities, are able to react in time. Particularly in the event of a fire, an operational alarm can warn those in nearby buildings who are still working on-site. Fast response may cause limited disruption to neighboring businesses, as well as reducing risk to life.
3. Keep things secure
Ensure that anything that could be considered valuable is removed from plain sight as much as possible, either locked and secured or removed from the site entirely. It may be difficult to do this with some electrical items, such as computer equipment, so it is worth making sure your insurance provisions are sufficient. It is worth considering any assets stored in a locked safe at the property be removed where possible.
It is worth reminding staff to do the same for any personal items that may have either financial or sentimental value.
Of course, it goes without saying, but ensure all windows and doors are locked and secured.
If you will continue to hold stock on-site, consider if any security upgrades may be worthwhile, and again ensure that you are adequately insured.
4. Consider repairs you’ve been putting off
Particularly when it comes to security, this is the perfect time to replace the window lock that can’t be used, repair a fence, or get a new padlock for the front gate.
Also consider checking the roof, and seals around windows and doors. A leak that would be noticed immediately by staff could cause extensive damage if left unabated for an extended period of time.
As long as it is possible to do so, switch off all utilities to the building that are not required for maintaining security. If a problem does arise, this can either minimise or totally eradicate the chance of damage taking place.
5. Inspect regularly
Providing it is safe to do so, and in line with Government guidelines, inspect the property. Ideally, at least once a week is best.
Inspections allow you to deal with any issues, such as a leak, before they become catastrophic, and allow you to pick up on any new maintenance issues that may develop over time.
Showing a regular presence, even if it’s for an hour a couple of times a week, can put off someone with malicious intentions, who may be watching the building to make sure it really is unoccupied.
6. Plan for being away for an extended period
Ensure that any remote working procedures you are due to put in place are documented, and have been tested. Ensure that anyone due to continue working from home has everything they need to be able to transition as seamlessly as possible.
Update your Business Continuity Plan to adapt to the new working conditions.
If the eventual plan is to return to working on-site, again make sure you have a robust plan in place as to how you will welcome your team back, and how operations will continue going forward.
How can we assist with unoccupied commercial property insurance?
GSI Insurance Services (Southern) Ltd. has specialised in unoccupied property insurance for a number of years, on both commercial and residential properties, and therefore we have developed all of the knowledge and experience required to assist customers, who may not have found themselves in these situations before the pandemic.
With most insurance policies only allowing up to 30 days of unoccupancy at any one period, before severely restricting cover, or withdrawing it altogether, the priority is obtaining affordable insurance that still awards you the protections of the policy you had when the building was in full operation.
With unoccupied properties in particular, we can offer the ultimate flexibility, allowing you to reduce the level of cover if you don’t require it to produce a saving, or opting for a shorter time period if you don’t plan on being out of the building for a full 12 months.
If this is something you require, the best way is to have a discussion with one of our experienced advisors to discuss your requirements. Give us a call on 0800 612 9376 to see how we can help!