10 unmissable tips for purchasing insurance for unoccupied property

Commercial property is worth £883 billion and accounts for 10% of the UK’s net wealth. Yet it is estimated that in London alone 24,400 commercial units are currently empty. Around 45% of these unoccupied properties have been vacant for over two years.

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Just like homes, commercial properties can have wildly different risk profiles, requiring a nuanced approach to finding insurance cover.

To help ensure you strike the right insurance deal we have outlined ten tips to follow, relevant for owners and managing agents with unoccupied property:

  1. Check what your policy says about covering wholly- and partially-unoccupied premises. 
  2. Check the policy for the maximum period and/or percentage of vacancy allowable before the building is defined as ‘unoccupied’.
  3. If a stipulation on your policy is a requirement to have a security firm patrolling your premises ensure that their contract runs concurrently with the relevant insurance policy. It would be unwelcome to discover that you were covered at the start of the policy because you were adhering to the stipulation but then midterm when you cancelled the security firm or forgot to renew the contract your cover/policy became void.
  4. If you move insurers from one year to the next – or even when you come to renew your existing policy – always check that no subjectivities (a subjectivity is something the insurer will want you to carry out within a stated timescale) or conditions have been added. Often policyholders assume that if they just roll over their policy the conditions will remain the same. Every time you put an insurance cover in place or renew your existing policy double-check what’s included, excluded and if any specific subjectivities need to be adhered to.
  5. Secure the property. If the property is going to be vacant for any length of time get the windows boarded up.
  6. Seal the letterbox to prevent would-be arsonists putting lit oily rags through the letterbox.
  7. Turn off all services – a small water leak can develop into a large event if unchecked.
  8. Ensure anything in and around the property is cleared away. Skips and bins should be removed to help prevent arsonists from starting fires, which might spread to the main property. In short: clear everything away that can be used, taken or cause injury. 
  9. Visiting the property on a regular basis is usually a prerequisite. Check your policy for the frequency. Insurers will normally require weekly visits but sometimes a fortnightly visit is mandated. If you have a security firm or concierge, then proof of a daily visit will be even better. Each visit should be recorded and appropriately evidenced. If you do not have CCTV consider taking a photograph with a date stamp on each visit.
  10. Ensure the relevant people know all the facts – many property owners rely on managing agents. Information surrounding whole or partial vacancy should always be passed on to the property owner who holds the insurance contract and the broker responsible for its placement. Similarly, it’s important that managing agents are made aware of any subjectivities, notices and conditions that need to be adhered to so they can ensure the relevant requirements of cover are being met.

Need further assistance? You can email us here, or reach us over the phone on: 020 7280 3451



Source: PIA Property Data Report 2017

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