10 Essential Steps for Securing Vacant Commercial Buildings

10 Essential Steps for Securing Vacant Commercial Buildings

Are you a business owner or property manager responsible for a vacant commercial building? If so, taking proactive measures to protect your investment and mitigate potential risks is crucial. Vacant and unoccupied buildings are susceptible to various hazards, including vandalism, theft, fire, and vermin infestation. You can safeguard your property and minimize potential losses by implementing a comprehensive security plan and following proper maintenance protocols.

This guide provides ten essential steps to secure your vacant commercial building effectively. From communication with your insurance broker to maintaining fire protection systems, we’ll cover all the critical aspects of protecting your property during periods of unoccupancy or vacancy. 

1. Effective Communication with Your Insurance Broker

As soon as you anticipate that your commercial building will be left unoccupied or vacant, it’s crucial to communicate this information to your insurance broker. Insurance policies often have specific conditions and requirements for vacant or unoccupied buildings. By notifying your broker in advance, you can ensure that you comply with these conditions and maintain appropriate coverage.


2. Regular Inspections by Qualified Personnel

During the period of unoccupancy or vacancy, it’s essential to have a qualified person conduct regular and ongoing walk-throughs of the building. These inspections will help identify any potential issues or vulnerabilities and allow for prompt intervention. By detecting problems early on, you can prevent them from escalating into significant damage or losses.


3. Implement Robust Security Measures

Securing your vacant commercial building is paramount to protect it from vandalism and theft. Here are some recommended security precautions:

  • Burglar Alarm Monitoring: If you already have a pre-existing burglar alarm system, continue its monitoring. Alternatively, consider installing a temporary system to deter potential intruders.
  • Video Surveillance: Maintain existing video surveillance or install a temporary system to monitor the premises—display signage indicating the presence of surveillance cameras as an additional deterrent.
  • Exterior Lighting: Ensure exterior lighting is in working condition and provides adequate coverage. Consider installing motion-sensitive lighting units for added security during nighttime.
  • Portable LED Lighting: Strategically place portable LED lighting units on night timers within the building to simulate occupancy and discourage trespassers.
  • Secure Openings: Where feasible, board up or reinforce ground-level openings to prevent unauthorized access—Additionally, secure rooftop access hatches, ladders, and doors to keep potential thieves out.
  • Vegetation Maintenance: Regularly maintain vegetation on the site, including removing dry vegetation near the building. Overgrown or neglected vegetation can provide hiding spots for trespassers.
  • Local Regulations: Check with your local department for any by-laws or regulations specific to vacant buildings in your municipality.


4. Heating Season Considerations

Maintaining adequate heat in the building during the heating season is crucial unless it has been properly winterized. Here are some key considerations:

  • Preventing Freezing: Keeping the building heated helps prevent freezing of pipes, sprinkler lines, and critical building systems. Freezing can cause significant damage and result in costly repairs.
  • Draining Systems: If heat needs to be turned off, ensure that all systems containing water are properly drained to prevent freezing and bursting.
  • Automatic Sprinkler Systems: Consult with your sprinkler contractor to determine the minimum temperatures required within the building to prevent freezing of the automatic sprinkler system.
  • Portable Heaters: Avoid relying on portable heaters as a permanent heat source. They should only be used in emergencies rather than as a long-term solution, including construction-box-type heating units.


5. Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems

Fire protection systems are critical for the safety of your vacant commercial building. Ensuring these systems are correctly maintained throughout unoccupancy or vacancy is essential. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Sprinkler Systems: If your building has an automatic sprinkler system, it should remain operational and serviced annually by a qualified sprinkler contractor. Avoid turning off the sprinkler system unless necessary.
  • Alarm Monitoring: If your sprinkler system is alarm monitored, maintain the monitoring coverage to ensure timely response in case of fire incidents.
  • Fire Alarm and Detection Systems: If your building has a fire alarm or heat/smoke detection system, ensure that these systems remain operational and are regularly tested.


6. Vermin Control Measures

Unoccupied buildings are prone to vermin infestations, leading to problems such as heating issues, structural damage, and electrical fires. To minimize the risk of vermin entry, follow these recommendations:

  • Regular Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of the building to identify signs of vermin damage or entry.
  • Prompt Intervention: If vermin entry is detected, immediately address the issue and prevent further damage.
  • Electrical Wiring: Vermin chewing on electrical wires can pose a significant fire hazard. Inspect and safeguard electrical wiring to minimize this risk.


7. Additional Security Measures

In addition to the essential security precautions mentioned earlier, consider these additional measures to enhance the safety of your vacant commercial building:

  • Security Patrols: Arrange for periodic security patrols by professional security personnel to monitor the premises for any signs of unauthorized access or suspicious activities.
  • Neighbourhood Watch: Engage with the local community and establish a neighbourhood watch program to encourage residents to report any unusual activities or concerns related to the vacant building.
  • Property Maintenance: Maintain the property’s appearance by regularly removing litter, maintaining the landscaping, and promptly addressing any maintenance issues. A well-maintained property is less likely to attract unwanted attention.


8. Insurance Coverage for Vacant Buildings

Having the right insurance coverage is essential when protecting your vacant commercial building. Standard business insurance policies may not adequately address the unique risks associated with vacancies. Consider obtaining vacant property insurance, which offers specialized coverage tailored to the specific needs of vacant buildings. Consult with your insurance broker to ensure your coverage protects your investment adequately.


9. Emergency Preparedness Plan

Developing an emergency preparedness plan is crucial to mitigate potential risks and respond effectively in case of an incident. Your plan should include protocols for fire emergencies, natural disasters, and other potential threats. Ensure that your emergency contact information is up to date and readily accessible. Regularly review and practice your emergency procedures with relevant personnel to ensure preparedness.


10. Professional Property Management Services

Hiring a professional property management company can provide significant advantages when securing and maintaining your vacant commercial building. Property management experts have the knowledge, experience, and resources to effectively manage security measures, maintenance tasks, and emergency preparedness. Consider partnering with a reputable property management company to ensure comprehensive protection for your vacant property.


Securing a vacant commercial building requires careful planning, proactive measures, and ongoing vigilance. Following the ten essential steps outlined in this guide can minimize potential risks and protect your investment. Remember to communicate with your insurance broker, conduct regular inspections, implement robust security measures, maintain fire protection systems, control vermin infestations, and consider additional security measures. 

Additionally, ensure you have the appropriate insurance coverage and develop an emergency preparedness plan. By taking these precautions and considering professional property management services, you can safeguard your vacant commercial building and have peace of mind.


Thank You to Wawanesa Insurance for sharing this resource with us.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, insurance, or professional advice. Please consult the appropriate experts for personalized guidance based on your situation.

Thanks for reading our article; I hope you enjoyed this month’s topic on navigating vacant property insurance. Here are some more ways to access more insurance information and tips:

  1. Visit our Blog/article page each month, where we publish various insurance articles and share information on specific industry products:

→ Learn more about Business Insurance and visit our PRODUCT PAGE

2. Follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date on the latest business insurance articles and follow our company updates:

→ Subscribe to NEWSLETTER