May 25, 2024

Looking after a property which has fallen empty is a weighty responsibility. With increased risks, including vandalism, theft and squatters alongside the possibility of structural or maintenance problems, there is plenty to consider. Here are three factors which all home owners should take into account.SecurityThe first step to prevent major problems is to ensure that the property is secure. Many empty homes act as beacons to thieves, vandals and squatters by showing tell-tale signs which are easily avoidable. Boarded windows, overgrown gardens and obvious maintenance problems such as broken windows are matters of common sense and easily avoided by, for example, ensuring that the lawn is kept neat. We’ve all seen properties so overgrown that it’s hard to see the house inside a jungle of overgrowth!However, some of the signs are far more subtle. Piles of post on the door mat, milk and free newspaper deliveries which haven’t been cancelled are other things which make it obvious that the building is vacant. So by taking care of the small details it is possible to minimise the risks.Other steps which should be carried out are to ensure that there are no keys left in obvious locations, such as the ubiquitous flowerpot. If there are spare keys, could these be left with a neighbour so that they can keep a check on the property from time to time? It is in the interests of neighbours to be alert to potential problems as these can easily effect the security and value of their own properties, so some may be willing to help.InsuranceHaving the right insurance in place is important, but it is not always easy to determine which policy is the most suitable. Whilst most standard home insurance policies are not designed for vacant properties, and may become invalid altogether when the property is empty for longer than short periods, some providers now offer unoccupied property insurance, specifically tailored to empty homes.Being customised to suit your circumstances, these policies can save money and provide better protection if something does go wrong. These can be suitable for landlords who are renovating a property before seeking new tenants, solicitors or relatives acting as executors for a will, owners of second houses or holiday homes or even businesses who have an office or warehouse which will be empty for a period.MaintenanceWith nobody living in the house, maintenance problems could go unnoticed for quite some time. It is important to regularly check the property for anything which may need attention. Whilst in most cases the water and electricity supplies will be disconnected, in some instances it may be necessary to leave supplies connected, such as for security alarms for example. In this case, checks will need to be made regularly to insure against problems and faults developing.Before the property becomes occupied again a more comprehensive inspection will be required. This will enable any major work to be carried out before anybody moves in and will ensure that everything is working correctly when they do.I have experienced personally the consequences of a failure to be thorough, with a faulty boiler causing damage to walls and furniture in a property I was moving into. Had the problem not been detected in time, the boiler could have exploded and caused injury or worse!Failure to keep properties well-maintained can also lead to trouble from local authorities, who have powers to force property owners to comply with their demands or even to carry out corrective work themselves and recover the cost through legal channels.