Seasonal Risks To Vacant Properties & How To Protect Against Them

It’s natural that almost all properties will be left vacant or unoccupied at one time or another. That could be in the case of an office block over the Christmas period, a formerly occupied domestic property, or an abandoned or otherwise disused factory or warehouse.

Of course, while it might not necessarily be the first thing you consider when locking up your premises for an extended period of time, there are inherent risks associated with leaving your property unoccupied. That’s where expert and professional vacant property security comes into play, mitigating those dangers, and providing complete peace of mind.

With our latest article, we’ll look at exactly what these seasonal risks might look like, the properties that are most in danger, and the measures we can put into place to reduce any potential threats your vacant property could face.


7 Seasonal Risks That Vacant Properties Could Face

Of course, there’s a huge range of risks and hazards with keeping a property or premises vacant for any length of time. These range from more obvious and preventable issues, to those which we’d have limited control over.

Let’s explore just seven of the key seasonal risks that vacant properties can face, and what these might mean for the overall safety, security and future value of your capital assets.


1. Vacant Properties Face A Greater Risk From Vandalism

Often a crime of opportunity, vandalism is one of the UK’s most prevalent threats. In fact, data from Statista found that, over the course of 2022 into 2023, there were over half a million recorded incidents of criminal damage and vandalism.

Encompassing everything from graffiti to deliberate damage or destruction, vandalism and criminal damage is one of the most pressing threats that vacant properties can face. Graffiti, for instance, while it may seem harmless or a minor nuisance on the surface, can have devastating effects on the property’s value and future sales.

Similarly, deliberate property damage from trespassers can also mean that your premises are ultimately worthless, and that more work needs to be done to make the property habitable or usable again.

This is further compounded if the property is only temporarily vacant, such as during the holidays or Christmas period – you’ll need to fork out to ensure that your employees can resume work in a timely manner.


2. Arson Poses A Huge Threat To Vacant Properties

Usually grouped together with vandalism and criminal damage, arson warrants its own inclusion as a point of concern for anyone who owns a vacant property. Defined as the purposeful and malicious setting of fires, arson is a risk regardless of the status of your property.

There’s naturally a much larger risk of arson at properties that aren’t currently occupied, especially given that NFCC places the monetary cost of arson and deliberate fire starting at over £1.3 billion every year.

Not only can it cost a huge amount to fix, but it also can be hugely dangerous for any neighbouring premises, either unoccupied or otherwise. A blaze can quickly spread, which is especially concerning if your property is in a residential or industrial area where other properties could easily catch alight.


3. Vacant Properties Are More Vulnerable To Theft

It ought to go without saying that properties that have been left vacant, for any length of time, are more likely to see incidents of theft. A vacant and unsecured property presents a clear target for thieves, and an opening for opportunistic criminals and trespassers.

This is even true if you’re certain that you’ve removed anything of value from the property. Lead or slate roof tiles, copper wiring, floorboards, and even bricks and mortar all have a value on the black market, and are immediately apparent to thieves in the area.

Of course, over extended periods of closure (such as during the summer holidays, or over the winter months), thriving offices and businesses are also at risk of this. With many offices holding thousands of pounds worth of technology, they’re a massive target for those looking to misappropriate the resources.

It’s also worth noting that, during winter months when nights are generally longer and darker, there’s often more chance for opportunistic thieves to break into your premises.


4. Empty Properties Are A Key Target For Squatters

Officially made a criminal offence back in 2012, squatting refers to any unauthorised occupation of a property. While the law is much more stringent on residential properties, with the offence carrying up to a £5,000 fine and/or 6 months in prison, there’s much less guidance on the issues that non-residential premises (such as disused warehouses or factories) face.

The current law on squatting in non-residential properties is that squatting there isn’t an offence in and of itself, but certain actions (including not obeying a noise notice, causing property damage, or refusing to leave when told to do so by a court) can inherently make squatting a crime.

That’s a real risk for those with properties that are likely to be vacant for an extended period of time, and especially so over the winter months which naturally present more of an impetus for homeless people to take the opportunity to squat.

While vigilance and boarded up windows and doors can prove to be deterrents at first, they often only prove to be a small initial hurdle for those seeking to squat. There needs to be a much more robust security presence in place to ensure that this doesn’t develop any further.


5. Larger Vacant Premises Can Be A Target For Fly Tipping

One of the more common offences UK-wide, with the latest statistics placing this at around 1.1 million offences over the last year, fly tipping is most closely associated with rural or “out of the way” areas of the British countryside.

The unfortunate truth of the matter, however, is that vacant properties are at an equal risk of falling victim to fly tipping, and especially so if these premises are left vacant over times that are often excessively busy, such as the Christmas period, or during the summer holidays.

While often viewed as an inconvenience, the truth of fly tipping is actually more serious. Fly tippers can often dispose of harmful or dangerous materials as part of this crime, which can lead to damage to your property. Furthermore, depending on the nature of what’s being thrown away, smells and leakages can lead to complaints being levied against you as the building owner.


6. Inclement Weather Is A Huge Risk For Your Vacant Property

With British weather being unpredictable at the best of times, it stands to reason that one of the major risks facing vacant properties is the changing fortunes of the weather. Whether that’s baking sunshine over the summer or the cold drizzle of a lingering winter, the fluctuating meteorological  can take its toll on your vacant premises.

While there’s little we can do about the weather itself, it’s absolutely crucial that you’re aware of how it can have an adverse effect on your property when it’s left vacant or otherwise unchecked.

Flooding, frost damage, and sun-bleached grasses and plant life all present unique and multi-faceted issues for the vacant property owner. While water ingress is one of the more immediately apparent, unchecked frost and sun damage can also lead to further issues and complications, especially if you decide to sell your premises on.


7. Your Vacant Property Is Constantly At Risk Of Neglect

Of course, the main issue that faces any property that’s left for a long period of time is the gradual wear and tear that affects all buildings and premises over time. It’s immediately more pronounced, however, for people who own persistently vacant property.

This could be something as small as a build-up of dust, grime or mould, but these progressively become worse when unaddressed. Similarly, unoiled hinges and creaking floorboards convey a negative impression of your premises, particularly if you’re looking to sell it in the future.

All properties, regardless of their purpose, do need some regular form of walk-around and subsequent treatment to ensure they stay in as good quality as possible.


Which Premises Are Most In Danger From Seasonal Risks?

While there’s naturally risks to any kind of property that’s left unoccupied or vacant for any length of time, there are certain kinds of premises that will naturally be more prone to seasonal or intensified risks.

Here are just a few of the more at-risk premises, what they can reasonably expect, and the possible options for recourse and risk mitigation:

  • Schools – Often left unoccupied over the school holidays, and particularly in those 6 to 7 weeks of summer, schools are a huge target for trespassers and “urban explorers”, with many choosing to climb buildings, vandalise property and damage key infrastructure. Plus, with a boom in technology meaning schools now have access to laptops, tablets and other cutting edge innovations, they’re also a key target for thieves.
  • Construction Sites – Whether down to project delays, poor weather, or staff absence, there’s often times where a building site is unmanned for a length period of time. This not only leaves equipment and machinery vulnerable to theft, but it can leave the door open to trespassers and squatters.
  • Closed Businesses & Shops – It’s a saddening sight on the high street, but as more and more shops, hospitality venues and other businesses close their doors in the wake of the pandemic, they quickly become a target for those seeking vacant properties. This could be opportunistic thieves, trespassers, squatters, or those looking to illegally dispose of their rubbish.
  • Vacant Warehouses – While these are few and far between, if you own a vacant warehouse or industrial facility, there’s a significant likelihood that they’ll fall victim to trespassers or squatters. Their sprawling nature, coupled with their storage capabilities, means they’re also a huge target for thieves, too.
  • Rural Or Secluded Properties – While it’s easy to assume that vacant properties that are off the beaten track will be safe from the threats that face all unoccupied premises, they’re just as at-risk as any other. Criminals can see these as a potential squat, given their isolated locale, or as somewhere to store illegal items such as drugs or weapons.

However, while these kinds of premises are the most in danger of the factors we outlined above, it’s equally true that any property that undergoes any kind of prolonged inoccupation should consider how they can protect against those ever-present risks.

With an exceptional security service provider like Churchill Support Services, you can rest assured that your property will be kept secured and safe for as long as it needs to be. Let’s look in more depth at what we can offer you and your property.


How Can I Mitigate These Vacant Property Security Threats?

We can offer a huge range of services that can not only guarantee the safety of your vacant property, but that can ensure your investment and your capital assets are protected from any opportunistic criminals or trespassers.


Mobile Security Officer Patrols Are Crucial

One of the most essential layers of protection and security for your vacant property, mobile security patrols offer one of the most comprehensive options, and comfortably one of the most effective deterrents to potential criminals.

Time and time again, a physical security presence has proven to be one of the most effective ways to ensure that your property stays as safe and secure as possible, and that’s especially true for those that are likely to be unoccupied for an extended period of time.

With our expertly trained mobile security professionals, you’ll constantly be in control of who comes and goes from your premises. Our mobile patrols can monitor the boundaries of your property, ensuring their integrity and checking for any signs of trespass or criminal activity.

They’ll also be able to rapidly and effectively respond to any disturbances or unauthorised visitors, and deliver the appropriate action, whether that’s asking them to leave, or getting in contact with the relevant authorities.


Protect Your Vacant Property With CCTV

A long-standing staple of the security industry, CCTV has evolved significantly since the grainy black-and-white footage of yesteryear. Now, with cutting edge technology and sophisticated communication centres providing round-the-clock support, CCTV is as important now as it ever was.

That’s particularly pertinent for protecting a vacant or otherwise unoccupied property. Not only does a robust suite of CCTV cameras offer a superb deterrent to anyone considering illegal activities, it’s also an exceptionally helpful tool when coupled with on-site security personnel.

Your security officers can work closely with their CCTV presence to provide a more all-encompassing service, and respond to any threats with an unparalleled immediacy and effectiveness. This all comes alongside our unmatched 24/7/365 service in our Communications Centre.

With our expertly trained operators, we can provide an exceptionally swift and efficacious response to any and all disturbances, as well as inform any necessary emergency services should an issue arise.


High-Tech Access Controls Can Reinforce Security For Vacant Properties

With the often-highly-restricted nature of vacant property, especially larger or more industrious facilities, strong access control features are an absolute essential. Now a mainstay across highly sensitive or restricted sites, such as medical environments or construction sites, access control can be tailored to exactly your specifications.

Whether that’s simpler forms of access like ID badges or fobs, or more advanced tech in the form of biometric scanning or facial recognition, access control is one of the more varied forms of security for your vacant property.

Not only does it provide a more comprehensive way to ensure that only authorised personnel can access the site, it also means that you’ve got an early warning system of any possible unwanted visitors.

If your cameras or access controls detect anyone who’s not permitted to be on your premises, you’ll have an immediate and effective response, especially when this is done in conjunction with vacant property security guards.


Consider Key Holding Services To Add An Additional Layer Of Safety

One of the more understated forms of securing your vacant property, a key holding and alarm response service can add in an additional layer of reassurance to any security package you have in place.

As part of this service, we’ll hold a copy of your premises’ keys in a secure, undisclosed location, and can provide a locking and unlocking service as and when you require it. Not only does this provide an additional layer of safety, it’ll also remove any onus from you or your staff for keeping hold of a key or access fob.


Using Churchill Support Services For Your Vacant Property Security

Ultimately, with the right blend of all the services we’ve just discussed, you can guarantee a comprehensive peace of mind, and that your vacant property will remain safe and secure for as long as it’s empty and beyond.

With Churchill Support Services, you’re in the best possible hands. Our extensive, 27 year history encompasses a wide range of security projects across a huge array of sectors and industries, and always with that same level of consummate professionalism.

We’ve got a huge amount of experience in securing vacant properties, and we fully understand what it takes to ensure that your unoccupied premises is kept as safe and secure as possible. All of our security personnel have undergone a rigorous training procedure, and have the same expert understanding of what it takes to secure a property properly.

Plus, with guards available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we have one of the industry’s most comprehensive coverage. When you couple that with our incredibly robust Communications Centre, you’ll have unparalleled peace of mind, and the reassurance you need to rest easy when it comes to your vacant property.

Get in touch with our expert operatives today, and we’d be more than happy to provide a completely free, no obligation quote!

Emily Macaulay

Director of Sales

Emily is responsible for business growth and account development via new sales. She leads the Business Development teams through strategic goals and objectives in line with business targets and strategy. Emily is a friendly, approachable and a respected senior manager at Churchill who always strives to deliver service excellence.