There are many situations where someone may own a vacant building or business premise that is unoccupied. Maybe they have plans to begin a business there, or maybe they are waiting for the perfect tenant to take over a lease? Whatever the situation may be, having a space left unoccupied or vacant can be confusing, insurance-wise. On top of this, these can sometimes pose a problem for many insurance companies. Businesses should always be informed of the issues around vacant properties and how to best protect their business. Luckily, isure has a list of tips when it comes to managing a vacant building or unoccupied property.
1. Figure out if your property is unoccupied or vacant
To begin, we must first understand what classifies a property as unoccupied or “vacant.” Many property owners are sometimes not even aware their properties are considered vacant. You may have recently purchased a property and your previous one is sitting, waiting to be sold. You might be a snowbird flocking south, or you might just have a gap in tenants. Many insurers will have a different definition of what unoccupied or vacant means. However, there is one key difference. An unoccupied property is one that is currently empty, but you have intentions to fill it with tenants or return in the near future. On the other hand, a vacant property is when all occupants have left with no intention of returning.
2. Keep some lights on in your vacant building
This one may seem like not a big deal, but it’s actually crucial! When your business is unlit for long periods of time, people start to notice and may become aware it is not currently in use. Overall, this isn’t a big deal, but it can become one when the wrong type of person notices your building is unoccupied. A dark building can attract thieves and trespassers. Even if there is nothing kept in your building, putting lights on at night will still deter them from vandalism, such as broken windows or graffiti. Keeping your building lit whenever it is dark out is a great way to keep people away. A good idea is to install some motion-censored lights. These are a good investment, as they can be used even after the building becomes occupied.
3. Remove valuables from your vacant or unoccupied building
When leaving your business vacant, it is still important to remove all valuables if you are able to do so. This is recommended, even if you will only be gone for a short period of time. Make sure to remove all cash and receipts from your business, and do not leave any valuables visible or accessible. Make sure you empty all safes and tils. If possible, putting your valuables in an off-site storage unit, such as a rental unit or garage, is also a great idea. If this can’t be done, move any items away from windows or places where they are visible.
Make sure to keep your cash drawers open to show that they are empty and empty any ATM’s that are on site. It is also a good idea to post a ‘No cash or valuables on premises’ sign to deter thieves. If you are a bar or restaurant, remove them from the bar and keep them in storage. At the very least, make sure there is no alcohol visible from the outside!
4. Secure the premises on your unoccupoed or vacant building
Even with everything hidden and out of sight, the most effective way to deter thieves or trespassers is to properly secure your business. Make sure your doors and windows are properly locked and secured. It is also crucial to deactivate all scheduled FOB door openings that are meant for cleaners or deliveries. A good way to deter thieves is to place a notice on your door that your business is monitored by a system 24/7. You can also state that there are employees on sight. Even if this is untrue, stating it may be a good deterrent. With that being said, it is heavily recommended you have an alarm system. Additionally, if you have a kitchen in your business, make sure you disconnect all gas lines from their source before leaving it vacant.
5. Visit your vacant building regularly
Another great way to make sure your unoccupied or vacant property is safe and secure is to visit it regularly. When doing so, monitor and manage inventory and storage conditions. It is important to keep a log of your visits so you can prove to your insurance company that you often inspect the premises. It is a good idea to scatter the times in which you visit as to not establish a noticeable pattern.
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 your 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.
6. 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. The only way to find out what is required is by contacting your insurance broker. This way, you can know your responsibility and make sure your property remains insured. If you are looking for a new insurance company or want to add to your existing coverage, why not check out isure? We have some of the cheapest rates in Ontario and take pride in protecting business owners and buildings across Ontario. Request a quote today!