How do you keep empty commercial property safe?

From arsonists to thieves, vacant properties can attract a lot of unwanted attention. It’s important for companies to ensure that their unoccupied properties don’t look like an attractive target to would-be criminals. Unoccupancy risks can affect both residential and commercial property owners. How can unoccupied property risks be reduced?

There are a variety of problems that can affect empty buildings;


  • vandalism
  • occupation by squatters
  • fly-tipping
  • water damage
  • theft
  • arson


It’s also important to remember that building owners have a "duty of care" to those who enter it, whether they are authorised to do so or not. If a worker on the site - such as a third party employee who has been contracted to ensure that it remains in good condition - sustains an injury, the company responsible for the building could be held liable for it. This would also be true for estate agents, surveyors, potential buyers or even trespassers. Broken walls, piles of rubble, protruding nails, falling objects and live wiring are all potential causes of such incidents.

How can unoccupied property risks be reduced?

There are plenty of ways in which a company can act to reduce unoccupied property risks.


Risk Assessment

  • carry out a thorough risk assessment so you’re aware of the risks to the property and can put adequate premises protection in place
  • have a look at our arson checklist, to see if your property is at risk.


Contents and Services

  • all loose contents should be removed with particular attention to combustible materials
  • unnecessary services isolated
  • fuel tanks drained down.


Property Maintenance

  • maintain the outside appearance of the property/grounds so that it doesn’t appear neglected.


Visiting the property

  • visit the property regularly to make sure that the premises stay in good condition
  • carry out of routine inspections, with documented visits ideally being made once a week
  • damaged fencing, smashed windows, graffiti, fly posters and rubbish accumulation - should be either repaired or removed at the earliest opportunity.



  • good perimeter and physical security to doors and windows is a basic necessity
  • board up the property where appropriate
  • consider installing a burglar alarm and CCTV with remote monitoring and an audible communication
  • manned guarding may also be deemed as appropriate for some empty properties – either permanent or mobile patrols; make sure that the company has guards who are adequately trained, fully screened and well supervised
  • the letter-box needs to be securely closed
  • keep fire alarms in operation
  • consider external lighting of the entire site that use sensors or timing devices.



For more information, you can visit our risk management website where you can access tools and templates to support your customers when it comes to unoccupied property. Alternatively, if you have any questions, please contact your usual underwriter or Aviva sales manager.

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