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Empty property? What are the risks?

By Jo Whittle
3 September 2018

You might think that an empty property poses less risk than one that’s occupied: less contents, no risk of damage by occupants. But sadly, this is often not the case. The risk to vacant property by malicious damage, squatters and structural damage is increasing.*

Risks to vacant properties include:

Water damage

One in six properties are at risk of flooding from coastal, river and surface water.² However, water damage isn’t just a result of flooding. It can occur through structural damage such as leaking roofs and burst pipes.


Squatting in a commercial property is not a criminal offence in England and Wales. In 2010 it was estimated there were 20,000 people squatting in the UK. The legal fees for removing a single squatter start at about £5,000.³


Property crime accounted for 70% of all police recorded crime in 2014/15⁴ Metal theft is an issue for owners of empty properties. Empty buildings often still have a lot of assets including electrical wiring and radiators, which thieves can easily remove but leave a lot of mess and destruction for an owner to address.⁵


This could be caused by intentional arson, squatters lighting fires to keep warm or even poorly maintained electrical sockets. 9,000 fires a year occur in empty buildings across the UK.⁶

Helpful tips for securing vacant property

You could reduce the risks to your vacant property by taking a few simple steps. These tips could help you protect your property from malicious or structural damage:

  • Check your locks and security systems: Check your property has working security alarms and secure windows and doors. Your insurer may also require further security such as CCTV.
  • Disconnect utilities: Reduce the risk of gas and water leaks by disconnecting supplies from the source.
  • Remove combustibles: By removing all combustible materials, you could help to minimise the risk of your vacant property being targeted for arson.
  • Cut back your hedges: Trim any overgrown hedges to make the building more visible to passers-by. This will make your building seem more exposed and less of a target for break-in or malicious damage.
  • Visit your property: Visit once a week so that you can deal with any structural issues and you can report any malicious damage as soon as possible.

Risks to people

As a property owner, you also have a duty of care to anyone who enters your building, whether they have permission or not.

Carrying out a risk assessment will help identify the risks to the building itself and anyone who enters the property.

Your risk assessment should include compliance with:

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
  • Health and safety legislation.
  • Environmental legislation.
  • Public liability legislation. ⁷

What this means for your insurance

Remember to always let your insurer know if your property is vacant. Failure to do so could see your insurance being invalid and any subsequent claims being reduced or rejected.

As with any policy it’s important to discuss your requirements with a broker who can advise you of the best cover to suit your needs. For information or advice or to check you have the right insurance for your specific needs contact:

Lee Gwilliam                                                     or

07971 170922

[email protected]

Simon Corderoy

07980 894917

[email protected]




⁴    2014to2015#trends-in-police-recorded-property-crime




Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Not all products and services offered are regulated by the FCA.  Registered in England and Wales number 0837227. Registered Office: Hillside Court, Bowling Hill, Chipping Sodbury, BS37 6JX. FP18.472

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