During these extended periods of vacancy, it is vital to ensure the maintenance of your buildings is well structured and the building is adequately protected, both to minimise the risk to your buildings, but also to ensure that in the event of an incident, you are in a pragmatic position of being able to make a valid insurance claim.
Whilst Gallagher’s Real Estate policy wording does not have any un-occupancy conditions, only guidelines, each insurance policy wording will have a different stance, and therefore a careful examination of your individual policy is vital.
Here are some best practice pieces of advice that should be considered:
- Notify your Broker and Insurer – Firstly, it is vital that your insurer is informed that your property is now vacant. As obvious as it may seem, almost all insurers see this as a material change in risk, and therefore have a requirement to be notified, and so that they can respond with any additional measures they would like to see implemented.
- Secure your Premises – Unoccupied premises are significantly more vulnerable to unwelcome intruders such as squatters and various other groups of trespassers. Intruders lead to a greater risk of a huge number of perils, including fire, flood, theft and malicious damage. Undertaking a thorough physical examination of all potential entry points to your property, as well as all perimeter fencing, and ensuring it is all suitably secured, is vital to minimising this risk.
- Revise your Management Procedures – Whilst these will vary from asset to asset, appointing an agent or individual to be responsible for the premises, with a clearly outlined set of duties, is critical to risk mitigation. This role could come with any number of responsibilities, including weekly internal and external site inspections with a supporting written and photographic log, testing of any critical systems, reporting any issues through a clearly defined reporting process and generally ensuring the site appears cared for rather than vacant.
- Consider your Legal Liability – Property owners have a legal duty of care to third parties whilst on their premises, and this even extends to trespassers – which could include children using your site as an unofficial playground. Undertaking a review of your health and safety risk assessment at the earliest opportunity is vital to take into consideration the fact that your property is now unoccupied.
- Prevent Fly-Tipping – Unoccupied premises are often targeted by opportunistic fly tippers where they have easy access, in order to dispose of waste on a significant scale. There are a number of measures you can take to deter this behaviour, including placing interlocking concrete blocks at certain strategic locations at key entry and exit points to your site.
Please note that these tips are intended to provide useful high-level guidance; for more detailed advice on how to manage the risks associated with your vacant properties, or for a full and independent review of your policy wording in this regard, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
As previously stated, whilst Gallagher’s policy wording has no conditions relating to unoccupied property and just provides best practice guidelines, each insurance policy will have a different wording in this regard, and it is vital these words are reviewed and understood.