Unoccupied/Vacant Properties and How to Avoid Claims During COVID-19

COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to either work from home or temporarily close leaving many buildings and business premises unoccupied or vacant. These properties and a problem for many insurance companies. Business owners should know the issues around vacant or unoccupied properties and how to best protect their business. Here are some COVID-19 business tips for vacant and unoccupied properties.

Keep some lights on

Unlit businesses are more appealing targets for thieves. Keeping your business lit may have thieves pass on your location.

Remove Valuables

Remove ALL cash and receipts from your business, and do not leave any valuables visible or accessible. Empty all safes and tills and move valuables to secured off-site storage (rental unit, home, garage). If this can’t be done, move items away from areas visible from the exterior and provide cover. Keep all cash drawers open to show that nothing is in the drawers and empty any ATM’s. Perhaps post a “NO CASH or Valuables on Premises” sign to deter thieves.

If your business has alcohol products, remove them from the bar and put in secured storage areas. Ensure no alcohol is left visible from the outside.

Secure Your Premises

Locked and secured and access points to your business. Deactivate all scheduled FOB door openings (ie. Cleaners, deliveries, etc).

Place a notice on doors that the business is being monitored by a system 24/7 and/or security and/or employees. Even if this isn’t 100% true, stating it may be a deterrent. That being said, we recommend having an alarm and testing that it is operating properly. If you don’t have security cameras, consider adding them to your alarm system.

Also, disconnect all kitchen gas lines from their gas source and water valves that are not connected to any sprinkler for fire suppression systems.

Visit Regularly and Keep Tabs On The Neighbourhood

Make regular site visits to monitor your business and to manage inventory and storage conditions (consider scattering the times this is done to not establish a pattern). Keep a log of your visits so you can prove to an insurance company how often you inspected the premises.

When inspecting the premises, check for water leaks, ensure your sump pump is working, and look for any damage to the exterior of the premises. Look out for suspicious activity near your business like large vehicles that may be ‘casing’ the building. Develop an action plan should a break-in occur to ensure their safety. If you are in a shared space such as strip malls, businesses can pool resources to hire a security service and install security systems.

Know Your Business Insurance Policy

Insurance companies have different requirements regarding unoccupied or vacant properties. Some policies require business owners to inspect the premises daily, while some require the business to be protected by a functioning ULC burglar and fire alarm. Contact your insurance broker to know your responsibility.

At sure insurance we advise and protect businesses and building owners across Ontario.

Learn More:

Business Insurance
Building Owners
Hospitality & Restaurants

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