Securing vacant property during the pandemic

Business Insights

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on 4th January 2021, announcing that the UK would go back into full lockdown from midnight, the Government has updated its guidance on working safely from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can now only leave home for work purposes “where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home.”

Many premises have remained empty since the first national lockdown in March 2020, with some businesses forced to close, and others now facing re-closure. With large swathes of the UK workforce set to continue working home for the foreseeable future, what does this mean for the thousands of commercial premises lying empty across the UK?

A property left vacant for any period of time is at risk of theft, intrusion and vandalism. That’s why it is vital that appropriate measures are taken to secure unoccupied premises while they are not in use. 

An analysis of customer enquiries received across March and April 2020 by vacant property specialists SafeSite Security Solutions revealed a worrying trend - many property owners were choosing not to implement security measures at their premises.

“During the first national lockdown we received several enquiries from property owners forced to shut down their business operations who wanted to know how best to protect their premises”,

says Gabriella Pemberton, General Manager at SafeSite Security Solutions.

“However, when faced with the cost of installing temporary timber boarding, steel screens or security doors, many property owners struggling with cash flow chose to divert essential funds into topping up furlough payments for their workforce and meeting other financial commitments.

“As a result many commercial premises have been left unsecured – some with only locks, no alarm system and un-boarded glazing. These properties can be a green light to unscrupulous squatters.

“There are also insurance implications when premises are left unoccupied for extended periods of time”,

explains Gabriella.

“Landlords should check with their insurance provider to ensure they are not at risk of invalidating their policy.”

Which security product is right for your property?

Timber boarding up – a traditional method of securing an empty property. Timber boarding up is commonly used if a building is likely to be empty for a short time i.e. during refurbishment works or if it is awaiting demolition.

Steel security screens – ideal for long term property security. Screens can be fitted to the outside of the property or to the inside of access points for added security. Made from galvanised steel, these screens will resist most forced entry methods. Solid steel screens make the premises dark inside, which is less appealing to squatters.

Security doors - a robust barrier against intrusion. These can be installed over existing doorways so there is minimal damage to existing fittings – meaning less to fix or replace when the property is occupied again. If the premises is temporarily closed, a security door with a letter box can be chosen so that post can still be delivered.

Monitored CCTV systems – providing round the clock property surveillance. Monitored CCTV systems not only provide a visible and effective deterrent against intrusion but, should a property suffer a security breach, all surveillance is recorded and can provide valuable video evidence in the event of any criminal proceedings. Installing a CCTV system may also help to reduce buildings insurance premiums.

Monitored intruder alarms – a visible deterrent against potential intrusion and vandalism. Monitored alarm systems are watched over throughout the day and night by an alarm receiving centre who will notify the key holder – and the police in an emergency – if the alarm is activated. Most alarm systems have a long battery life, which is helpful if the electricity supply to the building has been stopped, and can be operated remotely meaning fewer non-essential journeys and less disruption to the occupants of neighbouring properties.

“Many property security companies will offer options to hire their products if temporary measures are required, which can help to keep costs down”,

says Gabriella.

“We know this continues to be an incredibly difficult time for business owners – particularly those in the hospitality industry – but we’re urging all property owners to take security precautions now, and mitigate the risk of intruders gaining access to their premises and causing even more disruption.”

If your business has been affected by enforced closures due to the pandemic you may be eligible to apply for a top-up grant from the Treasury. The amount you may be entitled to will be based on the level of business rates you pay. Affected businesses that meet the funding criteria should apply for a grant through their local authority. Information on finding the right local authority to apply to can be found here.