Unoccupied commercial properties are vulnerable to fire, theft and damage including arson, the stripping out of copper cabling and water services, the removal of lead and other architectural features, water ingress and other damage caused by trespassers are particular problems.
A risk assessment should be completed covering fire, theft and general safety. It is essential that Insurers are advised of the un-occupancy and action taken following any requirements or policy conditions they may impose.
A key element of the risk assessment is the premises locality, specifically the local crime rate;
- Whether premises are in a prominent or secluded situation
- Who may be attracted to the site (thieves, vandals, vagrants, squatters, children)
- The site’s perimeter security.
Recognition should also be given to ongoing legal responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, or equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Under the Order, people responsible for commercial buildings i.e. the employer, owner, or any other person who has control of any part of the premises, are required to carry out a mandatory detailed fire risk assessment identifying the risks and hazards in the premises. Importantly, the ‘responsible person’ for the premises is required to keep any findings of the risk assessment under review.
The following key points should be followed:
- Appoint a responsible person to manage the property whist it is unoccupied
- Ensure that keys are strictly controlled
- Conduct documented inspections at least weekly and establish procedures to remedy any issues arising
- Remove all graffiti and fly posters regularly
- Remove combustible materials, flammable liquids and gases, and waste materials externally and internally
- Purge fuel tanks & remove temporary combustible buildings from the site
- Supervise contractors’ operations and control all hot work with a permit to work system
- Isolate the entire electrical and gas supplies unless essential to maintain heating or fire and security protection systems and equipment
- Isolate and drain down all water services
- Seal letterboxes and remove all accumulated mail
- Cut back and remove trees, shrubs and general vegetation in the landscaped and other surrounding areas as required