Looking After Vacant Buildings During Winter

As a landlord, the last thing you want is a vacant building.  But if you do find yourself with an unoccupied property on your hands, there are a number of provisions you should make, especially during the winter months.

Check your insurance policy

If your insurance is for a tenanted building, you may find the insurers have particular requirements if it is to be vacant for longer than 30 days. Check your insurance policy with care or speak with the broker as some insurers are not willing to take on the risk that a vacant building represents. Find out:

  • What is the minimum length of vacancy period before your insurance policy would be affected?
  • Which elements of the insurance policy are affected by prolonged vacancy?
  • What requirements will insurers pose such as regular inspections

Maintenance checklist

Vacant buildings, which would otherwise be left empty and unheated, require special attention in the winter months. Of course, the routine maintenance jobs for occupied buildings will also need to be done. Here are the essential tasks you will need to complete, to take care of your vacant building in winter:

  • Clear gutters and drains. Remove leaves and other debris to prevent clogging, which can lead to roof leaks.
  • Inspect trees around the property. In poor weather, high winds or heavy snow can cause trees or branches to fall.
  • Turn off and unplug electric appliances. This will reduce fire risk and save energy bills. The exceptions are those needed for safety alarm systems and heating.
  • Keep the heating on. If your building is unoccupied, it’s important to keep it heated to around 10 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, freezing temperatures could lead to frozen or burst pipes.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation. Even with the heating on low, your building will be cold inside, and therefore vulnerable to a build-up of condensation. Ventilation is important to help the water vapour to disperse, preventing issues with damp or mould.
  • Keep the property secure. With no tenants, your building needs to be well-protected from intruders. Ensure that windows and doors are locked securely, and that the building has a security alarm. Keep gardens tidy and avoid a build-up of post and deliveries to disguise the fact that the property is unoccupied.
  • Make regular inspections. Don’t neglect your vacant building. In the absence of occupants, nobody will report leaks or other issues, so it’s important to ensure that regular inspections are made.

Protection against squatters

Vacant buildings attract trespassers and squatters, particularly in the colder months, but keeping your property secure and well-maintained will help to reduce the risk.

If squatters do move in, proceed with care. It’s important for landlords to understand the laws surrounding squatting, or to seek legal advice from a property expert. If you are concerned speak with your insurers to check what cover you may have in this unfortunate eventuality

For help and advice with any aspect of residential block management or commercial property management, contact David Charles Property Consultants.  We can keep your vacant property maintained, offer legal advice on squatters and even help you find new tenants. Call us today on 020 8866 0001 or email info@davidcharles.co.uk.