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Ultimate Vacant Commercial Property Security Checklist

Ultimate Vacant Commercial Property Security Checklist
Ultimate Vacant Commercial Property Security Checklist

Unused, unoccupied commercial properties are more common than they used to be. This comprehensive checklist to protect your investment will help safeguard your property and minimise potential losses.


Guarding the Ghost Towns

Post-pandemic, the WFH culture (working from home) has almost become the norm – or so it seems.

Economically, it’s also been incredibly tough for the high street and other businesses. The latest figures from early 2024 throw the statistics into sharp relief: 7.6% of UK offices now lack a human presence. And that’s just offices; add in shops, factories, warehouses and other commercial premises, and most likely, millions of sq ft echo to the sound of — well, not much at all.

On the other hand, there’s a more positive outlook coming over the hill.

The impressively named Office of Budget Responsibility predicts that our economy will grow this year by a staggering 0.8%. (And yes, we are being a little caustic here.) But still – this is better news. For commercial properties, it means – hopefully – more consistent occupancy rates.

Also, that fewer workplaces or industrial buildings will stand empty. We’re moving into Spring, and things are looking brighter.

Is This You?

As a landlord, property manager, or property investor, best-case vacant property security could already be on your radar.

Perhaps you’re now anticipating new, longer-term commercial tenants due to improving economic conditions. Or your operation may have changed, and it’s time for a review. Perhaps you’ve already experienced break-ins, vandalism, or fly-tipping; in which case, it’s most definitely time for a review.

This article is for you.

Once your tenants have given notice, or your property is empty for any reason, how useful would it be to have a checklist; a process-driven, scheduled manual to help you achieve a practical yet maximum lockdown? 

Well, here it is.

Small Caveat

Vacant commercial properties differ.

Obviously, they have distinct structures and different uses, and there may be a range of reasons why they are, or will be, empty. Generally, though, there are a few essential elements that you will wish to cover. This could include:

  • Keeping unauthorised individuals out
  • Security concerns
  • Health and safety
  • Monitoring
  • Ensuring that the condition of the building remains sound

Creating a Comprehensive Security Plan

1. Let Your Insurance Company Know

Insurance policies for unused commercial land and/or buildings are hard to come by; some insurers resist it, as there’s a high risk associated with potential criminal activity. Clearway often refers to this in our articles, but there it’s worth re-iterating:

Check your policy for the advance notice they will need. Plus, for adequate cover you will have to prove that you have implemented a fairly stringent set of measures.

2. Implement Fort-Knox Security Measures

This is where Clearway steps up.

Our consultants can create a detailed risk assessment for your site (or sites). In addition, we have the skills and experience to design, implement, maintain and manage a wide range of security solutions.

What Will Work Best?

For physical “blocks”, typically, empty commercial properties will benefit from a combination of the following:

  • Locks
  • Steel screens and steel sheets
  • Keyless steel doors
  • Perimeter fencing and access controls
  • Bollards and barriers

CCTV and other high-tech security surveillance products work hard, 24 hours a day, to offer effective monitoring.

They sense and record visitors to your premises and are an excellent consideration. Also, contemporary alarm systems are highly sophisticated. Both CCTV images and alarm alerts go via our NSI Gold Cat II Alarm Receiving Centre to ensure that any non-emergencies — wild animals, for example — are filtered out.

Exterior lighting is also a must-have. Intruders shy away from bright lights for obvious reasons.

Manned guard patrols, with or without highly trained dogs, are a powerful combination of initiative, skill and critical thinking. Guards will pick up any signs of unauthorised access or suspicious activities; a midnight intruder, faced with a guard dog, may wish he was somewhere else instead.

3. Organise Regular Property Inspections

While your commercial property remains vacant, you must – in our view – engage a qualified person to conduct regular walk-throughs of the building.


Because these inspections will highlight potential vulnerabilities or issues early for proactive, early intervention. Acting sooner rather than later can prevent minor problems from becoming much bigger ones as the weeks go on.

Likewise, this is likely to be a stipulation from your insurance company

4. Consider the Season

Maintaining adequate heat in the property during the colder months, even at a low level, keeps the environment on an even keel. It also helps to prevent pipes, sprinkler lines and critical building systems from freezing. Burst pipes are a financially draining nightmare that you will want to avoid.

5. Deal With the Utilities

Think about how you or a plumber would bleed a radiator.

Draining down is the same, only on a wider scale; this prevents freezing and bursting, as per above. Clearway can stop the water at the stopcock and then drain the excess to empty the pipes. Also, we can isolate your electrical and gas circuits to help protect any inspectors or contractors who go into the property.

6. Consider Your Fire Alert and Protection Systems

Fire destroys lives and properties in equal measure. It takes hold in seconds and wreaks havoc in minutes. Arson is an issue here, yet faulty electrical systems can also cause spreadable sparks. We’d be happy to recommend the best fire and smoke detection products – they are incredibly high-tech right now – as well as automatic sprinkler systems.

(Avoid turning off your sprinkler system if possible. Also, ensure that it is checked and serviced every 12 months by a qualified provider, such as Clearway.)

7. Put Vermin Control Measures in Place

Mice, rats and other less-than-lovely animals gravitate towards interiors that, although chilly, are often substantially warmer than the great outdoors.

The result could be big problems with structural damage, cables being chewed through (rats will eat anything), and fire, as a result.

Vacant Property Security

Anything Else?

Yes. Keep things clean and tidy.

We recommend that you maintain the property’s external appearance, ideally using an outsourced management service. For instance, it stands to reason that broken windows, overgrown access points and landscaping will attract the kind of attention from squatters, vandals or fly-tippers you could do without.

And, of course, it makes the environment look unkempt and uncared for – not exactly an attractive prospect for future commercial tenants.

Finally, do you have an emergency plan?

The best-laid plans are just that: workable, implementable plans.

A documented what-if series of protocols will save time and stress should an incident occur. Consider what you would do in a fire or a natural disaster; snow, for example, has been known to cave roofs in. Is your emergency plan contact list up to date?

You may even wish to review and practice your urgent-situation procedures to ensure that should the worst happen, the worst won’t happen.

Thoughts from Clearway

Nothing is one hundred per cent watertight.

But, if you focus on the Five Ds, the chances of securing your temporarily empty commercial property are substantially improved. What we mean is:

  • Detect – spotting and recording intruders
  • Delay – Slow down illegal access with alarms, roadblocks and control systems to give your staff time to act
  • Deter – put them off; lighting, fencing, signs, barriers to entry. These work together to turn people in the opposite direction
  • Deny – steel doors and windows to stop someone in their tracks
  • Defend – create a shield around your valuable asset to keep it safe

What would your personal commercial property checklist have on it? All of the above, perhaps. Or, some of them. Your security strategy awaits.

Contact Clearway, and we can design your tailor-made version to offer peace of mind and complete control when and where you need it.

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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