Latest commercial property news from Lambert Smith Hampton

Scrap metal prices have implications for property owners


Alexa Cotterell

Soaring scrap metal prices are making empty commercial buildings prime targets for thieves.

Many property owners are facing big bills because they have failed to read the small print on their insurance policies.

Empty buildings at risk of criminal damage

Alexa Cotterell, Director in our Building Consultancy team, warns that when buildings are left empty they quickly become a beacon for metal thieves, not to mention vandals and squatters. Repairs to criminal damage can take months.

Read the small print

Alexa said: “With vacant space at a record high, effective and thorough property management has never been more crucial. Landlords need to employ a rigorous strategy to ensure their properties remain income-generating assets, without bearing the brunt of expensive remedial costs. For example, a 60,000 sq ft industrial unit was recently broken into and stripped of all its copper piping and cabling. In the process of getting to the copper, the thieves smashed toilets, brought down ceilings and tore apart electrical distribution boards. Having failed to carry out regular inspections the owner’s insurance policy was invalid and he was left with a bill close to a quarter of a million pounds.”

Most insurance policies require owners of empty properties to carry out regular inspections, normally on a fortnightly basis.

Regular inspections essential to minimise risk

Lack of inspections can also result in the insurance provider imposing restrictions on the policy, for instance the excesses – possibly as much as £50,000 – added to policies. Inspection is the only way to know if a building is secure.

Alexa adds: “Some property owners choose to carry out a cursory external inspection without conducting an internal viewing. Although less costly this is likely to be counterproductive. Unauthorised entry can still be gained without any obvious external signs, and if damage goes un-noticed over a period of time, the cost of putting it right will escalate.”

Alexa concludes: “The message to owners and landlords across all sectors is clear; check the small print on the insurance policy relating to empty buildings and inspect vacant property regularly and thoroughly. The costs of not doing so could be very expensive indeed.”

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