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Vacant Property Risks Rise Once The Clocks Go Back

secure empty property

Dark days, early nights and extreme winter weather mean added risk for empty properties. Buildings that stand vacant are exposed to greater threats over the cold months, risks include;

 

Winter Crime

Vacant properties are more susceptible to crime in the winter months than at any other time of the year. Research by Co-Op Insurance highlights that as soon as the clocks go back in October, property related crime increases as much as 36%.

Darker evenings and shorter days provide burglars and opportunist criminals with more opportunity under the cov­er of dark­ness, lead­ing to a rise in mali­cious dam­age and prop­er­ty insur­ance claims dur­ing the win­ter months.

Having property guardians residing in property gives around the clock protection, helping deter criminal activity. Guardians secure empty property and act as your eyes and ears on the ground and can report suspicious activity as soon as it occurs.

Squatters

When the temperature drops, the chances of squatting increases. People who most need shelter will seek to enter the most vulnerable buildings, and there’s no doubt that unused buildings or those awaiting refurbishment are the most susceptible to squatters and break-ins.

Guardians ensure the property remains visibly occupied, acting as a deterrent against anti-social behaviour and squatters. Squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence, whereas squatting in a commercial property is seen as a civil offence, making it harder to evict trespassers. Property Guardians deter squatters and can give temporary residential status, providing greater legal protection to owners.

Weather Damage

During the winter season empty property is at heighten risk of weather damage. Roofs can become damaged through water penetrating through weather pointing or rendering and tiles can lift in extreme winds. It’s not just external areas at risk, internal areas of the property can quickly become water damaged. Burst pipes as a result of frozen pipes thawing out are a common issue and mould can quickly form from humidity and lack of ventilation, even if the property has been closed up for a short time.

Many of these issues are relatively straightforward and easy to fix, but the issue arises as the property is empty and the damage is not discovered until sometime after the event. By then the damage has worsened and repairs could run into thousands of pounds to rectify. Property Guardians secure empty property and are able to oversee the condition of a building and report any faults as they occur. DEX has an in-house maintenance who can repair minor issues at zero cost to the property owner.
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Pest Infestation

It’s not just humans who looks for shelter over the colder months. Pests, such as rats, mice and squirrels head for the warmth of a nest in winter, and empty properties are an easy target.

Aside from being a health issue and nuisance for neighbours, pests can also cause considerable damage to properties, particularly by gnawing through electric cables and timbers.

Property Guardians act as a huge deterrent. Not only are rodents deterred by humans, Guardians are able to alert DEX if any are spotted in or around the property. Early measures can then be taken to address the issue before a full infestation occurs.[/grid_column][grid_column]
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Insurance

Finally, if your property is vacant, you need to keep a weather eye on your insurance over the winter months. In many cases, a claim for damage caused by winter issues will only be upheld if the vacant property itself has been secured, well maintained and if the insurer has been informed that the property will be vacant.

Property Guardians protect the property around the clock, ensure it is visibly lived in and have access to DEX’s in-house 24/7 maintenance team should any issues arise. Insurance companies appreciate that having Property Guardians in place ensures the property is more secure that when using traditional security methods. Taking all reasonable steps in maintaining and securing your vacant property not only minimises the risk of problems but maximises the chance of insurance company support in the event of a crisis.

If you have prop­er­ty that is cur­rent­ly or soon-to-be vacant, con­tact us to find out how DEX can secure empty property through Property Guardians,  reducing costs, risks and complexities associated with managing vacant properties, particularly in the winter months. Call us on 0800 0855 994 or email propertyowners@dexpropertymanagement.co.uk

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Empty Building Warning Issued, As Summer Holidays See An Increase In Urban Exploration.

secure empty property

Officials warn of the dangers of trespasses entering derelict or empty buildings over the summer months and the legal implication this can have on Property Owners.

Lighter evenings and warmer weather leave more teenagers and young people looking for things to do over the summer holidays. Empty and derelict buildings can be a magnet for young people, but the recent craze for urban exploration can lead to anti-social behaviour, further damage to property or injuries to individuals.

It is a property owners’ responsibility to secure empty property or sites. Whether the property is residential or commercial, by law, the owner has to ensure it’s safe for a member of the public to enter or pass by. Derelict buildings should be secure and made as safe as possible. Failure to do so could result in the Property Owner be liable, should a trespasser injure themselves while onsite or in the building.

Councils, police and fire and rescue services have come together to reach out to owners of vacant property. They are urging owners to ensure their buildings are as secure as possible, especially over the summer months.

Tig Outlaw, Cabinet member for community safety and public protection, said “Many empty buildings are unlit and there is a risk of tripping or becoming impaled on railings trying to enter or exit a site. I would urge the public to report any sites of particular concern”

“Emergency services have to respond to all fires, and this includes those set deliberately in empty or unused properties.” Added Howard Watts, Senior Fire Officer. “Not only does it put our crew members at risk, it also means while we are responding to incidents of that nature, we are not able to respond as promptly to other emergencies.”

Backing the safety call, Superintendent Sarah Jackson from Hampshire Constabulary, said “We are working with partners to make sure that youngsters realise any empty building could have dangers inside and since these buildings are very often private property, they are trespassing.

“My message to owners is to make sure your site is secured and for the public to be aware of any suspicious activity. Although trespassing itself is not a criminal offence, it is often linked with criminal damage and anti-social behaviour, which we have a number of powers that we can use to tackle.”

How to secure empty property

DEX Property Management offers a solution – Property Guardians. Guardians secure empty property through occupation, providing a highly effective solution that is at zero cost to the property owner – in some cases, it can even provide a revenue. If you would like further information about how Property Guardians could help secure empty property you own or manage please email propertyowners@dexpropertymanagement.co.uk

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DEX announces ongoing support for homeless youth charity, LandAid

landaid

DEX Property Management has announced it will provide ongoing support for homeless youth charity, Landaid.

LandAid, which describes itself as ‘The Property Industry Charity’ brings the property industry together to provide safe and affordable accommodation for young people. As part of DEX’s support for the cause, the team will take part in a number of fundraising events over the coming months. These include a Mudathon, where DEX’s team of property experts and Property Guardians will compete in an extreme 5k challenge – dubbed the UK’s toughest obstacle course! In addition to this, the team is hoping to complete other challenges to raise much needed funds including sleeping on the streets for a night and Steptober.

DEX Property Management is keen to highlight the plight of homeless young people across the UK; something Managing Director Rogier Donkersloot believes can be reduced via the use of empty properties. He said ‘There are thousands of commercial and residential buildings sitting empty across the country. These buildings are falling into a state of disrepair and are susceptible to asset theft, break-ins, and anti-social behaviour. Often these buildings were once pillars of the community such as disused hospitals, care homes, libraries, and schools; to see them in a dilapidated condition when they could be used to provide affordable housing is wrong.’

In addition to their fundraising efforts, DEX has also pledged to implement a number of social commitments over the next year. These include taking on apprentices, work placements and volunteering to give back to the UK’s communities.

Rogier continued ‘We are pleased to be supporting youth homelessness through our fundraising efforts this year. The team at DEX are committed to supporting communities and helping to reduce homelessness. We will also match client donations to LandAid on a per Guardian, per month basis across our properties. We are hoping to get both staff and our Property Guardians involved in fundraising throughout the year. As part of our growing social commitment, we’ll also be endeavouring to give back to the community in other ways including litter picking and helping in local food banks.’

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Empty School Buildings Need Looking After Before Disposal

Empty school buildings need looking after before disposal

Disused educational buildings are playing an important role in offering housing solutions in the UK’s major towns and cities says Rogier Donkersloot, Managing Director at DEX Property Management.

A report from 2018 by the Education Authority marked 27 schools for potential closure due to ‘sustainability’ issues for the period of 2018-2019. Donkersloot said: “ That’s a lot of empty school building floor space across the country that could be utilised for housing. I believe property guardianship is a solution that makes economic and social sense. It’s an option that benefits both the property owner and those in need of affordable accommodation.”

Empty schools or university buildings following closures or awaiting refurbishments are susceptible to break-ins, structural damage and squatting. There is also the issue of metal theft and asset stripping, as well as burst pipes in the winter. Donkersloot says Property Guardians can help to mitigate building damage and ensure a steady stream of people are seen entering and leaving the property.

“There are around 32,000 schools in the UK, and schools are often sold or disposed of as sites are moved to more modern/fit for purpose sites. In this case guardians provide a few added benefits. These include keeping the property in good condition and stopping dilapidation – which can help facilitate a faster sale if the property is to be sold. They also offer access to the property throughout the selling process or planning/development.”

Donkersloot added: “In 2011, it was estimated there were 20,000 squatters in the UK, but eight years on it is likely this figure has risen significantly. Large public buildings are often attractive to squatters who may view schools as an easy prospect due to lack of occupancy.”

Education Design and Build Journal – May/June 2019

Empty school buildings

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Disused Educational Buildings Playing an Important Role in Offering Affordable Housing Solutions

vacant school buildings

Disused educational buildings are playing an important role in offering housing solutions in the UK’s major towns and cities writes Rogier Donkersloot, Managing Director at DEX Property Management.

 

It’s no secret that over recent years across the UK, rents have been rising, pricing many out of the rental market in the country’s major cities. A report from 2018 by the Education Authority marked 27 schools for potential closure due to ‘sustainability’ issues for the period of 2018-2019. That’s a lot of empty building floor space across the country that could be utilised for housing. I believe property guardianship is a solution that makes economic and social sense. It’s an option that benefits both the property owner and those in need of affordable accommodation.

Vacant School Buildings – The Risks

Empty schools or university buildings following closures or awaiting refurbishments are susceptible to break-ins, structural damage and squatting. Property guardians can help to mitigate building damage and ensure a steady stream of people are seen entering and leaving the property. With over 32,000 schools in the UK, I believe the concept of guardianship is the future for schools undergoing renovation or remaining empty due to closures.

Property guardianship is not a new concept to the education sector; a recent news story suggests it is increasing in prevalence. LocatED (a government led initiative to find sites for free schools) recently revealed that appropriate school properties will be used for guardianship schemes. At DEX, we have a wealth of experience in the education sector. We have placed property guardians in a variety of school buildings including religious school properties with stunning architecture as well as state schools. Guardianship isn’t confined to school buildings in London either; the demand for commercial and educational buildings across the country is increasing. Recent buildings converted for guardianship under our watch include properties based in Plaistow, Dagenham and Torquay.

[button url=”https://www.dexpropertymanagement.co.uk/case-studies/empty-property/” text=”Case Study – Diocese Protects Empty School Using Property Guardians”]

 

Why Vacant School Buildings Make A Good Match For Property Guardianship

Schools are often well equipped for hosting property guardians thanks to built-in toilet facilities, showers and kitchens. DEX can usually have a building fit for guardians within just 10 days of conducting a site visit and providing a bespoke report on works to be undertaken. With schools, the turnaround time for making a building inhabitable is often fast.

Thanks to their good transport links and often central locations, schools are often sought after by property guardians. Should a school face a sudden closure, we can usually place an emergency guardian in the building usually within just 24 hours. In 2011, it was estimated there were 20,000 squatters in the UK, but eight years on it is likely this figure has risen significantly. Large public buildings are often attractive to squatters who may view commercial property as an easy prospect due to lack of occupancy.

There’s also the question of empty public buildings. Many local authorities could benefit from demonstrating accountability – empty school buildings don’t demonstrate responsibility. Since many schools are in residential areas, it can prove unattractive to local communities to board up large properties, leaving them dilapidated.

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Empty Property Cost to Local Councils

Empty Property - Local Councils

A new report by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has uncovered that councils across the UK have spent £74 million over the last two years maintaining and securing more than 6,000 empty properties.

Empty property, that is no longer used by local authorities, include former schools, council offices, business spaces and other commercial properties. The fee comes from the cost of security, maintenance, insurance and refurbishment.

Alliance chief John O’Connell said: “Councils have a duty to maintain empty properties for future tenants and owners, so of course some costs will be involved.’”

“Many people will be startled by the total cost of maintaining empty property and want an explanation as to why these have not been used or sold by the council. At a time when families are struggling with the cost of living, it is important that local authorities do all they can to ensure that they are making decisions with taxpayers in mind.’

Growth in Property Guardianship Within Local Councils

A recent report by DEX Property Management found that Local Councils are increasingly turning to Property Guardians as a cost effective, efficient and flexible way of securing empty property.

For the uninitiated, Property Guardians live in empty commercial, residential or public owned buildings that have been converted into temporary, unique living space. In return for a low monthly fee, often significantly cheaper than traditional rent, they secure and protect the property from vacant risks and ensure it remains in meaningful use.

The benefits of Property Guardianship don’t just lie with the Guardians. Property Guardianship offers a range of benefits to building owners and council decision makers too. This includes security, a steady flow of people entering and leaving the property on a regular basis to deter squatters and burglars. Property Guardians also oversee the condition of the building and report any faults. There’s no need for expensive security guards or maintenance contractors to ensure buildings do not fall in to a state of disrepair, which can save councils £10,000’s.

With much criticism often levied at council decision makers and decisions scrutinised, it doesn’t make sense that council owned buildings are left empty. If those buildings can be put to good use, and offer affordable accommodation at little or no cost to the councils then why not? In the current economic climate, it’s especially important that decision makers demonstrate accountability for budgets and the usage of public buildings. Property Guardianship can, in most cases, be a zero-cost solution for local councils and can in many cases even generate a revenue.

The Solution – Property Guardianship

Property Guardianship offers a win-win solution to empty council property security issues, discusses Rogier Donkersloot, Managing Director at one of the UK’s leading Property Guardianship providers, DEX. “There’s a lot of empty property floor space across the country that could be utilised for affordable housing. I believe Property Guardianship is a solution that makes both social and economic sense. It’s an option that benefits the council, taxpayers and those in need of affordable accommodation.”

“We are able to turn most properties in to habitable and comfortable living spaces. Our experienced team will aim to get most properties fit for Guardians within 10 days of inspection, normally at zero cost to the council or property owner. All that we ask is that a building is able to provide running water and electricity and that the property is water and windproof.”

“Whether empty property is commercial, residential or going through a regeneration process the risk of squatting, vandalism and dilapidation remains the same. Boarded up buildings are unattractive to local communities. They attract antisocial behaviour and don’t demonstrate accountability of empty property. DEX Guardians’ bring the buildings back into meaningful use, benefitting the whole neighbourhood. They mitigate vacant risks and can turn what would be a security cost into a revenue opportunity. They also provide the council with flexibility for vacant possession.”

[button url=”https://www.dexpropertymanagement.co.uk/case-studies/empty-property/” text=”Case Study – Council Turns Risk into Revenue”]

 

Secure Your Empty Property

Property Guardians provide a multi-levelled solutions for securing empty property. Live-in Property Guardians protect against threats such as squatting and dilapidation. They also deter vandals and thieves from targeting empty property for lead, copper and other metals.

Securing your property through occupation provides a highly effective solution and it is at zero cost to the property owner.  In some cases, it can even provide a revenue. If you would like further information about how Property Guardians could help protect an empty property you own or manage please email propertyowners@dexpropertymanagement.co.uk

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Councils Set to Double Council Tax on Empty Property

Empty Property Council Tax

UK councils are set to increase council tax on empty property by to up to 300% as they are given increased powers to get tough on empty houses.

 

From April 2019 councils across the country will be allowed to charge additional council tax on empty homes. This follows Peers backing of an amendment to the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwelling) Act 2018, giving councils the power to increase council tax levied on property that remains ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’.

Empty Property Council Tax Changes.

Under the new plans, empty homes premium thresholds on council tax bills for homes left empty for between two and five years can increase from 50 per cent to up to 100 per cent.

For homes empty for between 5 and 10 years, councils are able to increase the premium by up to 200 per cent and up to 300 per cent for homes empty for 10 years or more. There are currently over 11,000 properties empty for over 10 years across the UK.

Birmingham City council is one council set to double council tax for landlords of empty property. It is estimated that the new proposal could increase council tax revenue for the city by £1.15m per year.

Brighton and Hove City council, Gloucestershire County Council, Stoke City Council and Reading Council are amongst many of the councils who have already announced increase tax on empty homes. With many more up and down the country planning to introduce the rise over the next few weeks.

Government Backing for Tax Changes.

The changes come after a recent poll showed 86% of MPs agreed that the government should be placing a higher priority on bringing empty homes back into use. Cabinet member, Jennie Watkins said: Homes that are standing empty not only often attract anti-social behaviour or vandalism but are also often places that could make perfectly good homes for people that are homeless.”

Property Guardianship can provide Property Owners with an effective, cost efficient and professional solution to temporarily manage empty buildings while a more long term use is established.

The Property Guardian Solution.

At DEX Property Management, we place extensively vetted Property Guardians into vacant buildings to protect the property from squatting, vandalism and dilapidation. All at no cost to Property Owners. In return, Property Guardians benefit from affordable and flexible accommodation. It is a win-win situation.

Once Property Guardians are protecting the property the building is classed as occupied and the council will be informed. The property will not be subject to the premium as it is no longer classed as void.

For more information about how property guardians can reduce the risks, costs and complexities of managing your empty home, please call 0800 0855 994. Or email hello@dexpropertymanagement.co.uk