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Protecting your unoccupied commercial property

16 April 2020

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many businesses have been forced to close until further notice to slow down the spread of the virus.

With no end in sight to the pandemic, many business premises that are left unoccupied due to closure can be at risk to theft, damage and other risks that you will need to protect your business against during this difficult time.

Take a look at some of the ways that you can protect your unoccupied commercial property below.

Notify your insurer or insurance broker

The most important thing you need to do is inform your insurer that your premises will be unoccupied. Most insurers will have a certain amount of time that you will be allowed to have a business unoccupied without notifying them, usually around 30 days. However, with the coronavirus lockdown, your premises could be unoccupied for longer than that.

Some insurers now, such as Zurich, Aviva and Allianz have extended this period, but you should check with your own insurer and inform them that your premises is likely to be unoccupied whilst the outbreak continues.

Make regular visits

Many insurance providers will cover an unoccupied property for a period of around 30 days, and whilst some insurers have extended this due to the virus, it is still a risk to have your premises unoccupied for 30 days.

The government has advised against all but essential travel during the pandemic, but you should be fine to travel to check on your premises every week or so, or as specified by your policy, for any signs of damage that could be costly for your business at this time.

Have a checklist ready so that you can remind yourself of everything that you need to check whilst you make a visit. This should include things like:

  • Check for damage/vandalism to the exterior as well as the interior of your premises
  • Remember to lock all doors and windows when leaving
  • Re-arm your security systems
  • Check for any leaks which may lead to flooding and any potential fire hazards in the building
  • Look out for early signs of damage or faults on any systems that you have to leave on
  • Empty any bins and remove waste

Turn off most utilities

Make sure that you have turned off the utilities that your business would usually need, such as water, gas or electricity. It is worth taking meter readings and notifying your utility providers that the premises are unoccupied.  

As we’re coming into the warmer months, it is unlikely that you will need heating, so turn these systems off unless absolutely essential.

Turn off the water by using the stopcock, as you could potentially be leaving your business liable to flooding.

Use your fuse box to turn off all but essential electricity in the building, such as security systems. Your business could be at risk of electrical fires if your electrical systems are left on and unchecked.

Cutting down on your utilities can also help save your business money.

Check all entrances

Any window, door or vent is a potential access point for a thief.

When you make your site visits, check every entrance to make sure that it is secured. Lock windows and board up large vents from the inside to make sure that no unwelcome visitors can access your premises.

You could also secure and seal any openings designated for letters, as these can be used to access the building using specially designed tools.

If you have an alarm system, ensure this is activated when you leave the building following your checks.

Clear away waste

Any waste left inside or outside your business can be a fire hazard. Make sure that all waste is cleared away and disposed of properly so that you are reducing the risk to your business.

Bins should also be stored securely inside so that potential thieves can’t use them to reach upper areas or to access your premises forcefully.

Minimise what you store at the premises

If you store your equipment, materials or stock on-site, this can make your premises a more attractive target for thieves if the property is unoccupied.

Finding temporary storage for these resources will reduce the risk of loss to your business, even if it is inconvenient at the time.

It is important to make sure that you have the right insurance in place to protect the business that you have built. Every business is different and has its own business insurance needs, which is why we work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurers to ensure that you are getting the right insurance cover for your business.
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