Property owners to get detailed guidance from code of practice to protect empty properties

Property owners to get detailed guidance from code of practice to protect empty properties

Property owners should ensure adequate measures are in place to protect empty buildings against arson, theft and vandalism, says Norwich Union, soon to be Aviva.

Each year there are about 9,000 fires in empty buildings to which the fire brigade are called*. The Fire Protection Association (FPA) estimates that fires, theft and malicious damage in empty premises causes losses in excess of £100 million each year.

Allister Smith, property risk manager for Norwich Union, said: “As businesses face challenging times surviving the economic climate, with production down and workplaces closing, there are rising numbers of commercial properties left empty.

“Evidence shows that the prospect of damage or injury arising from empty buildings can be high, even if only temporarily vacant, e.g. prior to sale or refurbishment. To reduce these risks it is absolutely critical that they are properly secured and managed throughout this period.

“We are concerned that property owners are putting their portfolios at risk if failing to notify their insurers and take necessary precautions when their buildings are left unoccupied. Although empty, these buildings contain a lot of value in fixtures and fittings and we are seeing an increasing trend in the theft of building fixtures, such as plumbing, electrical cabling and even floorboards.”

The Insurers’ Research Insight, Strategy and Control Authority (RISC Authority), in association with Norwich Union, has produced The Code of Practice for the Protection of Empty Buildings, a document that provides solid and practical advice on the management and protection of empty buildings against theft, arson and vandalism.

Smith adds: “The document helps property owners identify the risks of an empty property, manage the shutdown, including conducting a risk assessment in compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and reduce any risks.

“Property owners must be equally aware of their duty of care to anyone that enters the premises - from trespassers to members of the fire services. If the property is left in a dangerous state, the owner would be liable for any injury caused.”

There are simple measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of trespassers wandering onto premises or it becoming a target for arsonists, explains Smith.

“Any vulnerable points of access should be boarded up and security patrols put in place if necessary, and then monitored. Rubbish from inside the building and around the perimeter should also be cleared. A general rule is to ensure that the building doesn’t look neglected, as one broken window will invariably lead to more.

“Services to the building should be isolated as far as possible, particularly water and electrical supplies. Where there are existing sprinkler installations, these should be retained as they continue to provide a valuable protection against fire damage.

“In addition, using third party specialists, such as Orbis Property Protection LTD, is also recommended to ensure the property is properly secured, cleaned and cleared efficiently for the time it will lay empty.”

The Code of Practice document is available to download free of charge:

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