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Back to Basics: Your Easy Jargon-Buster for Vacant Commercial Property Security

Back to Basics: Your Easy Jargon-Buster for Vacant Commercial Property Security
Back to Basics: Your Easy Jargon-Buster for Vacant Commercial Property Security

Practically every area of business seems to have a degree of “sector speak”: 

Words, phrases and acronyms that mean a great deal to the people who use them every day. And not so much for those coming to an industry for the first time. Or sourcing essential services within it, such as security for a commercial property that will soon become vacant.


Let’s Avoid the Verbiage

Clearway doesn’t really do jargon. Actually, we don’t like it much. 

Impenetrable language is off-putting; it makes us all feel embarrassed for not knowing what’s going on, which just won’t do. In all likelihood, you feel the same. While there genuinely is no such thing as a stupid question, many of us still feel that, in reality, there is. 

So, we miss out on the whole picture and may end up purchasing elsewhere.

In this article, we’re shedding light on a few tricky terms and expressions for an unclouded insight into their meaning. 

Also, although not necessarily jargon, you may find it helpful to have full definitions of a few security-related products and services. Likewise, how with some obvious-not-quite-so-obvious definitions, they can be front and centre, protecting your unoccupied business premises. 

For example, with Clearway, and in the sector as a whole, there’s a lot to know.


Vacant Commercial Property

This definition is fairly nuanced and not as apparent as it may first seem.

According to UK regulations, a property is officially “vacant” when all the furniture, fixtures and fittings have been removed (or as many as are practical). “Vacant” is often confused with “unoccupied”. Strictly speaking – although we don’t often define this too heavily – an unoccupied premises is one with no people in it

For vacant possession, the building must be free of “chattels”, which could mean pictures, boxes – everything, in fact, that a previous tenant may have left behind. Or, that you may consider safe to store there. 


Assets are any form of commercial property you own that can be used to determine your wealth. Clearway often references how to preserve your asset value; what we mean here is that a well-protected, unused property is much less likely to suffer damage, enabling you to protect its market value until your new commercial tenants move in. 

Also, to help you manage your insurance cover: it’s hard to obtain and often expensive. 

Commercial Real Estate

Essentially, this is commercial property – it’s one and the same thing. 

Commercial property is used to make a profit and/or to carry out any business. It can be municipal, too, with leisure, community centres and public sector locations under the same umbrella. They have different rules and regulations, and when occupied, they “look after” many more people than a residential property would. they’re not used 24/7.

Good examples are shopping centres, supermarkets, office spaces, small business shops, factories, warehouses, and construction sites. Equally, pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes, and cinemas.

retail premises to rent



This is the intentional destruction or damage to a property, often resulting from unauthorised access. 

Any kind of defacement or sabotage to a vacant property not only looks highly unsightly, it’s also a beacon to encourage further vandalism, intrusion or theft. 

Also, it can create a chain of events, resulting in substantial repair costs. In addition, it makes people feel unsafe – and quite literally, lowers the tone. Why does it happen? That’s a good question. Some vandals may be looking for things to sell, others perhaps even to deliver a message or further a cause. Often, it’s simply malicious: a “fun” way to harm, or cause havoc.

Either way, the reputation of your business could suffer.


According to Keep Britain Tidy, fly-tipping is “the illegal dumping of liquid or solid waste onto land that does not have a licence to accept it”. If you’re interested in the origins of words, the Oxford English Dictionary references the term “on the fly” being used from the early 1850s to mean “on the move”. This, coupled with tipping something from a cart or carriage, created fly-tipping.

Is fly-tipping at unoccupied commercial sites an issue? 

Most certainly, it is, and as you may imagine, many businesses experienced a surge in this type of activity during lockdown. With so many of us at home, fly-tippers had a field day. Unpleasant, and often-hazardous rubbish was dumped on agricultural land, industrial estates and even car parks. Fly-tipping remains a problem. 

Read more about how Clearway deals with this distasteful crime here

fly tipping guide

Commercial Squatting

Squatters unlawfully occupy a commercial building without permission or a legal right, creating potential security and legal issues. Why have we included its definition here? Because of one simple reason: to clear up any confusion. Simply taking up residence in an empty factory, warehouse or office is not an illegal act. (Unlike residential squatting which was legislated against in 2012.)

It’s only if they cause damage on their way in, or during their uninvited residency, that the police can intervene. Again, we’ve touched on this subject in a previous article 


Clearway offers a broad range of services and products to protect your vacant commercial property. Examples include CCTV, manned guarding, steel screens, security fencing and lighting, keyless doors – and many more. Refer to the features and benefits of each of these by following the links.

In the meantime, we’ve picked up a few concepts and terms that we’d like to highlight and explain more.

Vacant Commercial Property Insurance

Included here because, to coin a phrase, it’s a thing. 

Normally, when occupied, as a landlord you would hold basic buildings insurance. When the property is vacant, or about to be, instantly matters will get more challenging. You will need to notify your insurer that the site is empty (and give an estimated timeframe) and purchase a more comprehensive policy. Your vacant commercial premises will become an extremely attractive prospect to intruders, the risks here are high and insurance is not easy to come by. 

It’s likely that, for adequate cover, you will need to put some provable, stringent measures in place as soon as possible, such as vacant property alarms, regular patrols and property inspections.

Plus, if applicable, you may need to contact your mortgage provider and the council regarding business rates. 

Service Drain Downs

You may be wondering what this is, but it’s actually fairly simple.

Pipes can freeze in winter, and in particular in a business-related building. Left unoccupied, it gets icy. Pipes exposed to below-zero temperatures could shrink, expand and then burst, with hundreds of litres of water going everywhere: walls, ceilings, floors and even the neighbouring properties.

Draining down involves a broad-scale bleeding of radiators. Clearway can stop the property’s water at the stopcock, and then drain out all the excess water in the systems to empty the pipes. Also, it’s about isolating the gas and electrical circuits to reduce hazards and ensure it’s safe for contractors or inspectors to enter the property.

The result is a significantly lower risk of the pipes bursting and wreaking damage everywhere. 

Intrusion Detection Systems

Let’s define this more closely.

Often combining motion sensors, alarms and monitoring software, this is your ultimate pair of eyes and ears, even when you are hundreds of miles away. A sophisticated system such as this will detect and alert to unauthorised entry or intrusion attempts in real-time.

Clearway’s inView Detect is easy to install and offers full 360-degree coverage. Upon activation, a series of images are sent to our Alarm Receiving Centre (see below) to verify the cause of the alert. If appropriate, a series of security protocols can be instantly implemented, with explicit site information included. 

We’ve mentioned them here as they represent cutting-edge technology and can work with CCTV Towers for further resilience and protection. 

NSI Gold Cat II Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC)

This stands for National Security Inspectorate Gold-approved category 2 Alarm Receiving Centre. In brief, it’s a 24/7/365 monitoring service that offers peace of mind.  This service is recognised and audited to the highest possible standards. 

The centre is staffed by highly trained professionals who can react and deal with all types of alerts and incidents using remote CCTV and alarms throughout the UK.

In effect, technology and human beings work together at their best to keep your vacant commercial property safe from harm.

Clearway NSI Gold Cat II ARC interior

Final Thoughts from Clearway

“Clear” is part of our business name, so offering as much transparency and clarity as possible makes sense. 

We hope you’ve found this guided tour of terms and phrases useful. There’s only so much a single article can offer you, however. So, do get in touch if you need guidance and advice.

Safeguarding people, property and assets lies at the heart of everything we do. And, in our opinion, the security of vacant commercial buildings looks set to remain a significant issue. With the right strategy, we’re here to ensure you can create a near-impenetrable forcefield where you need it most: your valuable land and business assets. 

Gideon Reichental

Vacant Property Security Consultant

Gideon is an experienced property specialist with a commitment to excellent customer service and support. With over eight years dedicated to the niche field of vacant property security and services, Gideon has been at the forefront of developing and implementing best practices and successful strategies for safeguarding vulnerable properties, demonstrating a profound understanding of the complexities involved. His hands-on experience includes managing portfolios of over 200 vacant properties directly, alongside senior management roles overseeing broader portfolios that encompass more than 2000 properties.

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