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Protecting an unoccupied property

With the approach of summer and the rising temperatures likely to tempt people to leave their homes and offices for longer than usual periods, empty buildings and unoccupied property see an increase in the risk of fire, vandalism and theft.

That is the experience of property managers Camelot Europe, in an article published on the 10th of May 2016. It is a view echoed by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), which notes that the source of fire damage in industrial and commercial property has a one in two chance of resulting from arson.

Although empty commercial and industrial properties may face the most severe risk, however, unoccupied homes and residential buildings also face heightened perils. And these may be left temporarily vacant for a whole host of reasons:

  • you might be going on an extended holiday away from home;
  • your job might be taking you to a different part of the country – or even abroad – for several months at a time;
  • the home you usually occupy or the property you usually let to tenants might be undergoing renovations or refurbishment;
  • there may be a gap of several months after the current tenants of your buy to let property move out and before the new ones move in; or
  • the property might be subject to probate, awaiting completion of that legal process before the longer-term future is decided.

In all of these circumstances, unoccupied property insurance is likely to be required to ensure that adequate protection remains in place to safeguard your home, or let residential, commercial or industrial property.

More detailed consideration of your need for unoccupied property insurance is given in a special guide we have published here at GSI Insurance.

Playing your part in protecting unoccupied property

Although you may have arranged the appropriate form of insurance whilst your property is temporarily unoccupied, you are nevertheless expected to play your own part in mitigating the risks of loss or damage by taking suitable precautions to safeguard the building and its contents.

Many of these are largely a matter of common sense and might include:

  • ensuring that all external doors and windows are securely locked;
  • doing nothing to advertise the fact that the property is empty – by arranging for deliveries to be stopped or for items to be taken promptly inside and out of sight, and avoiding references on social media to the fact that you are going to be away for the duration;
  • for similar reasons, making sure that the surrounding gardens are kept reasonably in trim;
  • perhaps arranging for a neighbour to park their car in your driveway from time to time, to give the impression that there is someone at home;
  • a similar impression might be given by using timer-switched lights in selected rooms of the house;
  • unused utilities such as gas and water supplies may need to be turned off – unless a gas fuelled boiler is used to provide a background ambient heat to prevent frozen pipes; and
  • regular inspections of the empty property by a friend, neighbour or a professional property management company.

Simple precautions such as these may help to protect and safeguard your property whilst you are away.

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