Increased squatters risk in commercial properties
Legislation introduced from the 1st September making squatting in residential buildings in England and Wales a criminal offence and punishable with up to six months in jail and a maximum £5,000 fine, could mean that commercial properties are now all the more vulnerable as squatters seek alternatives, warns Alan & Thomas Insurance.
With winter nearly upon us and the inevitable colder and longer nights, property owners with empty commercial properties are advised to ensure they are fully protected to ward off any unwelcome guests as significant damage, such as that caused by fire whether deliberate or accidental, could lead to serious disruption.
Chris Baxter, head of the property owners' division at A&T, advises property owners and managers to take the following steps to ensure their property is well protected:
- Ensure the perimeter of the property and all windows and doors are secure
- Consider boarding up any windows and doors
- Ensure intruder and fire alarm systems are fully operational
- Switch of all energy supplies to prevent use or abuse by squatters and remove any combustible material
- Install a letter box seal to prevent squatters setting fire to the property – a build up of mail can also be an easy indicator that a property is empty
- Carry out frequent inspections of the property both internally and externally
- Ensure that all CCTV equipment is in full working order
- Consider installation of a temporary intruder alarm system while the property is unoccupied (recommended in accordance with the SSAIB code of practice for temporary alarm systems)
- If appropriate, consider employing security guards - either for periodical visits or permanently based staff
- Ensure sprinkler systems are in full working order
This issue has also highlighted the need for specialist unoccupied property insurance.
"When a property becomes unoccupied for a period of more than 30 days, the insurance cover usually becomes incomplete and specialist unoccupied property insurances needs to be in place. It is a policy requirement to inform your broker/insurer immediately when the property becomes vacant so that you comply with all the terms and conditions of your insurance and you are properly covered" warns Chris.