Whilst the halcyon days of the 90s property market is a distant memory, it is now not uncommon for landlords to have property standing empty whilst waiting for tenants. Even when a property is occupied, it is important for landlords to keep a close eye on the building to protect their financial interests.
However, it is when a property is stood empty that it is at its most vulnerable. So what steps do you need to take safeguard your empty property in order to ensure that it is ready for occupancy when a new tenant is found?
Checking your cover
The very first task you should carry out when your property becomes unoccupied is to take a look at your buildings insurance policy. Quite frequently the agreement will state that the policy is invalid where the property is not occupied.
Alternatively, it may state that certain aspects are not covered by the policy, such as water damaged caused by burst pipes, theft and malicious damage or vandalism. So be sure to have a good check of your insurance and upgrade it to a more suitable level of cover if necessary whilst the building is empty. Unfortunately, you may find that your current insurer refuses to offer a suitable policy to protect the property, leaving you no option but to look elsewhere.
Protecting against water damage
With your new insurance in place, you can now concentrate on ensuring that the incidents that your new policy covers do not happen. Water damage is not uncommon in residential properties that have not been properly attended to and whilst you are now of course protected, such an occurrence can cause a fair amount of disruption and hassle – possibly even affecting the chances of renting the property out to a prospective tenant.
Water damage in unoccupied buildings is usually as a result of burst pipes. This is most likely to happen during the winter period, when the temperature drops below zero and water in the pipes freezes. If a pipe does burst and is left to run free for a week, it can result in up to 80,000 litres of water being spilled into the property, which can cause severe damage.
Your first option to avoid burst pipes is to drain the water system, emptying it completely – if there is no water in the pipes, it can’t freeze. You should also remember to turn off the water at the stopcock.
Alternatively, you can opt to leave the central heating system operational and keep the water temperature up. If you decide to take this route then you should set the temperature at 15°C and leave the system on 24 hours per day.
This will of course incur heating charges, which can begin to add up if the property remains empty for a long period. However, it does offer an additional benefit in that the increased building temperature will reduce the likelihood of damp problems occurring.
Securing the property
The final problem that you face with an empty property is keeping it secure from unwanted trespassers and thieves. Unfortunately, empty buildings do tend to attract youths looking for somewhere to gather. Where they do gain access to an empty property, it will often result in them causing damage its contents and is some instances even the very structure. There is also the possibility that they, or professional thieves, will steal any valuable contents.
Obviously a good alarm system is a necessity for any property, whether occupied or not. In addition, it is a good idea to install additional security to all windows and doors. Retractable bars are one option; however they will still leave any glass open to smashing from vandals and could ruin the aesthetic of your property.
You should also try to drop by the property as frequently as you can just to check that everything looks as it should be. Be sure to collect any delivered post that is in sight and keep any grounds tidy – both of which are a giveaway that the property is unoccupied.
A guest post by Michael Smith on behalf of Eddisons – property auctions specialists in the UK and Ireland.