What are some of the threats to unoccupied buildings?

Properties can become vacant for a number of reasons. Whether closed for refurbishment, awaiting a sale or closed for good there are a whole range of reasons why a property might be unoccupied for a long period of time.

However, it is absolutely critical that during the time that a building is left vacant that the owners take steps to secure their property.

High on the agenda of concerns for landlords of vacant properties is the risk of scrap metal theft. High export values for materials such as lead and copper have led to a sustained rise in the number of buildings pillaged by thieves, with 1,000 commercial properties every week targeted in the UK at the peak of activity. Criminals force their way into property and then proceed to strip it of all its valuable metals often causing thousands of pounds worth of damage along the way.

Another problem which is also causing headaches for landlords is that of squatting. This is when a vacant property is taken over by people determined to live in the building free of cost with the only route to remove them being to take them to court. Once evicted, landlords are often left with heavy renovation costs to pay for as well as expensive energy bills for water, gas and electricity that have been racked up during their stay.

The best strategy for dealing with these types of threats is to take preventative measures. The first step you should take upon knowing that your property is to be vacant for a period of time is to have a risk assessment carried out.  Here at Gateway we regularly assess properties for risk making sure that they are adequately secured and recommending any ways that we think security could be improved.

  • Every site is different but our recommendations might include: Installing lighting in areas where criminals and squatters could potentially gain access.
  • Turning off gas, electric and water supplies to the property as early as possible
  • Installing heavy duty gates or barriers which make access difficult both on foot or in a vehicle.
  • Applying anti-climb paint and clearing away bins, wheelbarrows or other items which could be used to gain leverage onto the property. 
  • Restricting access to the entire property or specific areas with access control equipment
  • Restricting vehicular access with automatic rising kerbs
The risks to empty buildings are numerous and should not be underestimated.  Beyond squatting and stealing scrap metal there is also the risk of trespass and there are numerous incidents of vandalism taking place in vacant properties, as well as the risk of having to pay compensation if someone is injured while trespassing in your building as you may have a duty of care over them while they are in your building.

If you believe that your property may become vacant in the future, or you own a property that has already been a target for thieves and vandals then please call us on 01522 682 255 to discuss how we can help to keep you safe. 

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