According to the property management and security company, VPS (Vacant Property Specialists) as many as 60 fires every day are reported in or near to unoccupied property – that is well over 21,000 fires every year!
This statistic alone suggests the evidence for a particular vulnerability of empty property to the risk of fire. But there are many other risks, too:
- unoccupied property seems to be a magnet for vandals, squatters, burglars and a host of other unwelcome visitors;
- what might be a minor fault in occupied premises, might turn into a major disaster for an empty property when there is no one there to spot the problem or to arrange timely repairs and maintenance;
- vacant property is likely to require a more rigorous maintenance program than usual, if damage and eventual dereliction is to be avoided.
It is through a recognition of these and other risks to which a vacant property is exposed that has made us here at GSI Insurance specialists in the provision of unoccupied property insurance.
We understand that standard forms of property insurance usually have an exclusion clause if the premises are left unoccupied for a certain period of time. In the case of residential property, for instance, this might be between 30 and 45 days, depending on the particular insurer. After that period, the cover for the premises is severely limited or lapses altogether.
Unoccupied property insurance restores the comprehensive cover which your premises previously enjoyed when it was in use.
Although the insurance restores cover against risks and perils, as the property owner you are still expected to mitigate those risks by taking all sensible and reasonable precautions against loss or damage. Examples of these measures might include:
- maintenance of the home or commercial property in a good state of repair;
- the regular inspection of the property – in the case of your own home this might be done by yourself, a friend or a neighbour, but in the case of larger buildings might need to be done by property security specialists, with a written record of each inspection often required by the insurer of the empty premises;
- the installation of fire alarms and warning systems;
- the removal of all combustible material from within or close to the unoccupied property;
- turning off of all utility supplies, such as gas, electricity and water;
- in the case of your own home, security might be as simple as the installation of intruder alarms or interior lighting regulated by timer switches;
- any deliveries, of course, need to be removed promptly from the doorstep and stored inside or taken in by a neighbour;
- that same neighbour might also agree to park his or her car in your driveway to give the impression that there is in fact someone at home.
There are many reasons why your home, buy to let or commercial property needs to be left vacant for longer than a month or so. Unoccupied property insurance is there to ensure that the empty building continues to be protected in the same way as when it is in continuous use.
You can read more about unoccupied property and the risks it faces here.