CPD: Managing & Securing Vacant Property

This CPD whitepaper will discuss best practice in managing and securing vacant properties and the use of property guardian services to protect them.

There are estimated to be more than 900,000 empty properties in the UK and, according to the Audit Commission, around £2.5bn worth of surplus assets under local authority control. Vacant properties face an increased risk of damage due to water, fire, overdue maintenance and dilapidations. They are also more vulnerable to criminal attacks such as arson, metal theft, vandalism and squatting.

Vacant properties are also unattractive to potential buyers and may be undervalued. Insurers class empty properties as high risk and they therefore incur higher premiums unless owners can demonstrate that they have taken appropriate precautions to secure and manage them. It should also be borne in mind that property owners still have a duty of care to protect visitors to the site, whether they are welcome or not — squatters or members of the emergency services, for example.

Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012 criminalised squatting in homes and all other residential buildings for the first time in England and Wales from September 2013, making the offence punishable by a prison term of up to six months, a fine of up to £5,000, or both. However, the law does not include commercial premises. According to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) Vacant Property Protection Group, squatting in commercial premises has increased significantly as a result.

The risks of vacancy can apply to public, commercial and residential properties, construction sites and open land. They also occur at different points in a property’s life cycle, such as prior to first occupancy, during refurbishment or development, following damage, during temporary or long-term vacancy or when properties are derelict or awaiting demolition.

This CPD whitepaper will discuss best practice in managing and securing vacant properties and the use of property guardian services to protect them.

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