Is your Unoccupied Building covered during the COVID-19 outbreak?

As government advice moved from a strategy of ‘contain’ to ‘delay’, many businesses and organisations that once operated predominantly from offices, retail units, factories and warehouses are demonstrating incredible flexibility and innovative use of technology to enable their workforce to comply with government social distance recommendations and operate remotely.

So now your normally busy premises are quieter and likely to be unoccupied, what should you be considering next?

Whilst putting your business continuity plans in place and ensuring your business continues to operate for your customers, it’s important to highlight the risk and general acceptance that buildings which remain empty for any length of time are an easier target and are exposed to increased risks including vandalism, theft, arson and water damage.

We asked Griffiths & Armour’s Development Director, Troy Johnson, for his views on what businesses should consider:

“As COVID-19 continues to cause disruption to businesses worldwide, it is important not only to focus on how your workforce and IT infrastructure can continue to operate remotely, but also what you may be vacating for an extended period. The insurance sector may categorise some of these premises as unoccupied buildings.”

A common definition of an unoccupied building is:

‘any building that is wholly unoccupied, mainly unoccupied, disused, unfurnished or not in active use by you or any of your tenants for more than 30 consecutive days. In some cases, this can be extended to 45 days. Each policy is unique to the business it has been designed for so it’s vital each business is aware of exactly what their policy states.

If you are unsure or have any doubts about your policy cover, we are here to help. If you are a Griffiths & Armour client, check with your usual Griffiths & Armour broker, as different insurers can specify different timeframes that constitute the definition of an ‘unoccupied building’. You should also notify your insurance broker of any forthcoming unoccupancy.

Griffiths & Armour are recommending that if you are a business owner or are responsible for managing the insurances for your organisation, you evaluate your business continuity plan as well as insurance policies and determine if alternative plans and insurances are required during the COVID-19 pandemic.  To minimise potential risks to unoccupied properties it is essential that prompt action is taken to safeguard them. If your properties become unoccupied, you need to focus on loss prevention and risk management.

Our Risk Management team have provided a few useful tips to get you started with completion of a risk assessment:

  • Redirection of mail
  • Compliance with insurer’s requirements
  • Ensuring all keys are accounted for
  • Ongoing management arrangements for the property

In addition, here are some initial Risk Reduction and Control Measures you should consider:

  • Security – secure the building and put all protective locking devices and any alarm protection (Intruder Alarms and CCTV) into effective operation.
  • Wherever possible, contents should be removed from vacant premises, particularly combustible items and those of value.
  • The water, gas and electricity supplies to the vacant property should be disconnected or isolated, other than where necessary for fire protection, heating, safety or security purposes.
  • Ensure that the building is inspected internally and externally at least once a week where possible, and a written record of the inspection is maintained.

The above guidance is taken from our comprehensive Unoccupied Buildings guidance document which is available now to all Griffiths & Armour clients through our RMworks online risk management platform. If you would like more information on guidance for employees working from home or if you are a client that requires help to access RMworks, get in touch using the CONTACT option below and a member of our team will be in touch.