How to Secure Vacant Properties

vacant properties

Vacant properties can be like a moth to a flame when it comes to attracting criminal activity. Almost every city and town in the UK has unoccupied premises that have been blighted by vandalism, flytipping, and other nuisances. However, these crimes can often snowball – leading to serious criminal damage, theft of materials, and even arson. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can safeguard an empty property.

How to secure a property that is only vacant for a short period

Properties can become vacant for many reasons. While some may be awaiting sale for a long period, others may be simply closed for a short amount of time – such as for refurbishment.

When any property closes its doors, this typically results in less footfall around the site, which means a greater risk/reward ratio for would-be criminals as they are less likely to be caught in the act.

An easy way to avoid unwanted attention is to make it appear as if your site is occupied when it isn’t. This might be a case of using security or triggered lighting, making regular trips to your site, or avoiding posting information online about your closure.

How to secure a property that is vacant for a longer amount of time

For properties that are out of use for a longer amount of time – it pays to think carefully about your security planning and to keep up appearances.

Keeping your property well maintained by cutting grass and clearing away debris, and making regular visits to deal with postage are simple strategies that you can employ. You should also turn off gas, electric, and water supplies that could be abused by trespassers.

However, for most long-term vacancies, it pays to secure your boundaries in the strongest way possible. You can use anti-climb paint to warn of intruders, and install heavy-duty gates or barriers that make site access difficult both on foot or in a vehicle.

Criminal gangs have been known to target empty properties for theft of scrap metal and other precious materials. However, these gangs will rarely approach on foot, and as such restricting vehicular access should be high on your agenda. You can achieve this through tools like road blockers, as well as heavy-duty gates and barriers.

If you own a property that could become vacant soon then security planning should be high on your agenda. Here at Gateway Automation we regularly assess properties for risk making sure that they are adequately secured and recommending any ways that we think security could be improved. Call us today on 01522 682 255 to discuss how we can help to keep you safe

 

Securing Empty Property- Commercial Space

Shop to letSecuring empty property can often feel like a waste of money. There’s nothing inside to steal. However, leaving a commercial property vacant for any length of time can be risky. Whether you are having the property renovated or waiting for new occupants, there are some common risks and security measures that you should be aware of.

Here is our guide to securing empty property to ensure your investment remains secure.

1. Reduce Theft

Theft is a main threat for any commercial building left unoccupied. Even if you believe there is nothing to take as the building is empty, there are still many valuable items that thieves tend to target from commercial buildings. Stealing metal-based items for scrap is popular with thieves as lead from roofs, aluminium from heating ducts or copper from wiring can be valuable. Even radiators are regularly stolen as they are often easy to remove from the wall and can be sold on for a good price. Opportunist thieves will not be deterred by a building with little content.

It is not just the stolen materials that commercial property owners need to be concerned about. The theft of these items can lead to damage of the building which will lead to additional costs and potentially more severe issues in the future. For example, removing piping and radiators can lead to leaks, water damage or even pest problems whereas removing the lead from roofs can leave holes in the roof which again could lead to water damage or weather damage. Anything removed from the electrics will also increase the risk of gas leaks or risk of fire.

Although the level of metal theft is decreasing due to legislation updates making it more difficult to sell on metal, it is still a real concern property owners need to be aware of when securing empty property.

2. Stop Arson

Arson is dangerous as not only can it cause significant damage to your property, it can lead to others getting injured as well, especially if there are flammable materials still in the building. It can also quickly spread to surrounding properties and impact other businesses.

If a fire broke out and somebody was injured there may be an investigation into the landlord’s negligence.
Fire should be a concern for any owner looking into securing their empty property.

3. Stop Anti-Social Behaviour

Individuals sometimes break into vacant properties in order to deliberately vandalise the building through graffiti. Although it is relatively easy and cheap to remove it, it doesn’t give off a good image and can lead to other forms of antisocial behaviour. It can also encourage more people to graffiti if some is already visible as it shows that the building is accessible.

Unfortunately, empty commercial buildings can tempt people to use them for a range of anti-social behaviours. From drug use to a temporary toilet, fly-tipping or even dogfighting, the list goes on. Activities like these can quickly cause damage to your property but also impact the surrounding environment and buildings. It can even lead to significant health hazards that you need to be conscious of. Although it is not you that has caused any mess, you will be liable to ensure it is cleaned.

4. Puts an End to Squatting

The law changed in 2012 for squatters of residential properties which made squatting illegal. However, the same rules do not apply for commercial properties. Squatters are defined as people who occupy a property without permission. It remains illegal for people to break into a building, however, if squatters have managed to access the vacant building without causing damage to do so, you will be faced with an even bigger problem. Police can only intervene if damage has occurred.

It is possible to get squatters evicted; however, the process is time-consuming and expensive. In order for it to be done, you would have to go through the civil court system, not the criminal court. This process can be extremely drawn out. During this time, the squatters could be causing damage to your property.

Also consider the land around your property. Illegal occupation can also apply to any land that you own. Some business owners have found travellers on their property.

5. Attract New Business

Having a well-secured commercial property improves the professional appearance. High-security levels can lead to a higher interest in your property. Having a property with broken windows, clear structural damage or graffiti will deter potential tenants.

6. Switch Off Your Utilities

Protect your business by removing anything of potential value. Switch off your gas, electricity and water when the property becomes vacant. This can limit the risk of fires or leaks. Also, prevent access through doors, windows and roofs using boarding. Consider having physical security patrol the building as well as gates and barriers. The more deterrents you implement the better. Plus, having physical security measures as well as CCTV can make a vacant building appear occupied which will be a physical deterrent.

7. Secure all Entry Points to Your Building

To reduce the risk of arson consider boarding up the building with steel screens rather than timber boarding which is flammable.

As a commercial property owner, you have a Duty of Care for anyone entering your property, regardless if you invited them or not. Any injury a person may incur whilst on your property will be your responsibility and increase your liability.
Be proactive as much as possible. Assessing your situation and gain specialist advice.

8. Consider Installing Access Control Systems as an Added Layer of Security

Undertake a health and safety and risk inspection by a professional to gain a full understanding of the risks you need to avoid. Inspect your property on a regular basis. Insurance companies will often want you to check your property at least once a week.

9. Use Perimeter Security around your Plot of Land

Ensure unauthorised vehicles do not access your land by implementing flow plates, barriers or bollards.

Although there will be a cost to protecting an securing empty property, the potential cost saving could be significant. It also gives you the peace of mind that your investment remains as secure as possible at all times.

To find out more about how to protect empty commercial property with physical security, please contact us on 01522 682255 for a free, no-obligation quotation and feasibility survey to assess your perimeter security equipment.

Protecting your business this Christmas

Securing your business at ChristmasMany businesses such as offices, schools and factories are are shut between Christmas and New Year. Although this break is much appreciated by employees, business managers need to ensure that security is up to scratch as it is often during this quiet period that criminals target business premises, they believe to be unoccupied.

Here we discuss some tips that managers should consider in order to ensure their premises remains as secure as possible during this time.

•   Create a procedure in advance for the last day in the office. Nominate and agree an individual to secure the premises. Communicate the plans thoroughly to avoid any mistakes or confusion about what the plan is.

   Keep track of visitors- Christmas, for many establishments is a busy time for guests due to more deliveries for example. Ensure you know who is in your building or premises at all times. Having access control barriers and panels for your building can help ensure no unauthorised vehicles or personnel can access your premises.

•    Decide which key holders will be contactable during the Christmas break- Although the likelihood of them being needed is relatively small, always confirm which members of staff who have keys will be available to deal with any emergencies. Share a list with relevant staff to confirm.

•   Turn off electrical items or put in safe mode. If your premises will be empty during Christmas, carry out thorough checks prior to the break to avoid risk of fire.

•    Check heating settings- Although there will not be anyone in the building, you might want to have the heating on for a short time each day just to ensure its being used regularly. This is especially important is certain stock needs to be temperature control.

•    Consider employing security guards- Depending on your organisation, you may decide if it is worth the investment to have a physical security guard on during the days the office is closed. For many companies this may be unnecessary.

•    Ensure nobody is left on their own- On the last day, try and avoid having one person closing the office or building on their own. It is a lot of pressure for them to remember everything and can also make them vulnerable to any criminals that are watching the premises. If you decide to close early, ensure everyone leaves at the same time.

•    Keep the perimeter well lit- Having strong security lighting is not only protecting your employees during dark mornings and evenings, it is also a good deterrent for potential criminals as it can scare them away but also means any CCTV footage will be clearer.

•    Install barriers, gates and signs- Barriers and gates create a physical barrier that can protect your company but they, along with strong signs such as “CCTV in action” act as a strong deterrent.

•    Do a trial run- You can always do a trial run to ensure all protocols are met. You should also carry out a trial security threat to test reaction times.

The tips above are just some of the ways you can ensure your security levels remain high over Christmas. Of course, these tips and precautions can and should be implemented all year round. Having a permanent high level of security all the time ensures the security remains a part of everyday life and will reduce the vulnerability of your business throughout the rest of the year.

To find out more about how we can help with your business security needs, please contact us on 01522 682255 for a free, no obligation call and feasibility survey to assess your business needs.

Secure your vacant commercial property before it’s too late

secure your vacant commercial property before its too lateAs the owner of a commercial property you are likely to find at some point that your property becomes vacant for a period of time. During this timeframe you need to be completely sure that the site is protected from external threats – of which there are many. Here are some of the top risks posed to businesses while a property is vacant and a few tips on how to neutralise those threats.

Urban exploration

Along with the rise of social media and video networking sites like YouTube has come a rise in the practice of urban exploration. This is where people visit abandoned or vacant sites and photograph them to share with other people. While much of this practice is innocent and hobbyists encourage each other to practice sensible exploration there are still dangers posed to the owners of those sites. Not only can those people risk their health and accidentally damage fixtures and fittings, but they can also attract unwanted attention from gangs and criminals looking to take advantage of those sites for their own purposes.

Vandalism

Another key risk to abandoned sites is that of vandalism. Whether perpetrated by skilled graffiti artists or mindless vandals – the end result remains the same – damaged property that the owner of the site will at some point have to pay to rectify. Unsecured commercial sites are key targets for vandals.

Squatting

With a rise in homelessness in recent years, squatting is once again back on the agenda of security concerns for owners of vacant commercial buildings. Many buildings across the UK have become shelter for groups of vulnerable people with nowhere else to go. However, this comes at a cost to the owners of these sites who must endure sometimes difficult legal processes to move them on and are left to pay for any damage they leave behind.

Arson

One of the most serious and severe dangers that owners of empty commercial buildings face is that of arson. Out of all the risks to a property this is perhaps the most devastating and can lead to huge damage and financial losses as a result. Without proper perimeter security there is nothing preventing an arsonist from choosing to target your property.

Fly tipping

Fly tipping is infuriating for land owners. Not only does it look unpleasant, but it can also cause harm to property and local wildlife. It also incurs heavy costs in both time and money to the owners of the property who are left to clean it up. An isolated and unsecured property is an easy target for rubbish dumpers who want to ensure they are not caught in the act.

What to do?

There are plenty of different methods for securing a vacant property from these types of threats. Strong perimeter security tools such as gates and barriers are however an important place to start.

No matter the size or nature of your businesses or site, we can provide you with a free, no-obligation quotation and feasibility survey to assess your security requirements. For more information on any of the security options above, or for further advice on how to protect your business premises from criminals, please contact us here or call us on 01522 682 255.

What are some of the threats to unoccupied buildings?

Properties can become vacant for a number of reasons. Whether closed for refurbishment, awaiting a sale or closed for good there are a whole range of reasons why a property might be unoccupied for a long period of time.

However, it is absolutely critical that during the time that a building is left vacant that the owners take steps to secure their property.

High on the agenda of concerns for landlords of vacant properties is the risk of scrap metal theft. High export values for materials such as lead and copper have led to a sustained rise in the number of buildings pillaged by thieves, with 1,000 commercial properties every week targeted in the UK at the peak of activity. Criminals force their way into property and then proceed to strip it of all its valuable metals often causing thousands of pounds worth of damage along the way.

Another problem which is also causing headaches for landlords is that of squatting. This is when a vacant property is taken over by people determined to live in the building free of cost with the only route to remove them being to take them to court. Once evicted, landlords are often left with heavy renovation costs to pay for as well as expensive energy bills for water, gas and electricity that have been racked up during their stay.

The best strategy for dealing with these types of threats is to take preventative measures. The first step you should take upon knowing that your property is to be vacant for a period of time is to have a risk assessment carried out.  Here at Gateway we regularly assess properties for risk making sure that they are adequately secured and recommending any ways that we think security could be improved.

  • Every site is different but our recommendations might include: Installing lighting in areas where criminals and squatters could potentially gain access.
  • Turning off gas, electric and water supplies to the property as early as possible
  • Installing heavy duty gates or barriers which make access difficult both on foot or in a vehicle.
  • Applying anti-climb paint and clearing away bins, wheelbarrows or other items which could be used to gain leverage onto the property. 
  • Restricting access to the entire property or specific areas with access control equipment
  • Restricting vehicular access with automatic rising kerbs

The risks to empty buildings are numerous and should not be underestimated.  Beyond squatting and stealing scrap metal there is also the risk of trespass and there are numerous incidents of vandalism taking place in vacant properties, as well as the risk of having to pay compensation if someone is injured while trespassing in your building as you may have a duty of care over them while they are in your building.

If you believe that your property may become vacant in the future, or you own a property that has already been a target for thieves and vandals then please call us on 01522 682 255 to discuss how we can help to keep you safe.