Property owners to prepare for further rise in vacant retail units, warns Aviva

Article date: 19 February 2010

With the increase in empty shops on UK high streets, Aviva is warning property owners of the importance of having the right insurance in place in the event of crime and malicious damage.

A new study by the Local Data Company shows that retail property vacancy rates across Britain rose 2% in the past six months of last year to 12%, with some towns seeing as much as 24% of its shops lying empty*.

Allister Smith, property risk manager at Aviva, said: “With vacancy rates on the rise, now more than ever it’s imperative that landlords take all necessary steps to ensure that their buildings are adequately protected and insured correctly.

“The biggest two threats to an empty property are fire and malicious damage.  Empty units must be adequately protected - every year, over three million properties are vandalised and 25% of this malicious damage occurs in empty properties with arson costing £2bn**.

“Landlords should notify their insurer, implement risk management measures at the time a building is vacated and ensure continued compliance with their insurance policy conditions.

Smith adds: “Landlords also have a duty of care to anyone visiting the property, so failure to remove hazards or have sufficient warning signs, could mean the landlord is liable for any injury, even if a visitor is trespassing.

“And with an estimated 20,000 squatters in the UK, it is also imperative that adequate measures are put in place to prevent squatters from entering and taking ownership of a property as it can be notoriously difficult to remove them.”

Smith suggests a number of ways that property owners can ease the worries associated with having an empty property and reduce the risk of loss or damage:

  • All policies stipulate certain requirements that must be abided by and properties owners should acquaint themselves with these to ensure that they comply with the policy. For example, specific security measures and conducting regular inspections
  • Attending immediately to any minor damage to the building is imperative; if it is left untouched it can easily worsen or even become dangerous
  • Regularly removing graffiti and ‘fly posters’ is advisable in displaying a ‘cared for’ appearance
  • Ensuring intruder alarms and CCTV systems are in working order
  • Continuing the operation of sprinkler systems and fire alarms
  • The more obvious measures must not be overlooked such as making sure that all water, gas and electricity supplies are turned off at the mains and, wherever possible, chaining and padlocking isolation valves
  • Sealing up letterboxes to prevent mountains of post building up
  • Keeping grounds maintained
  • Use of security lighting

Finally, Smith recommends that property owners should speak to their broker to get the right level of protection for their business: “Many insurers have preferred supplier arrangements for their customers to provide discounted property and security services, designed to provide peace of mind to property owners,” he added.

For further information please see Aviva’s Hardfacts information on unoccupied properties: (Link no longer active)


For further information, please contact Heather Price at Staniforth on 0161 919 8010/ 07966 652056 or Vicki Burn from Aviva’s press office on 01603 684224 / 07800 692909.

Notes to editors


**Information sourced from SitexOrbis Property and People Protection 24/7 brochure

  • Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
  • In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers.  Aviva also provides roadside assistance through RAC.  Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.
  • Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses.
  • Aviva's life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 12% and a top three position in its key markets of savings, protection, and annuities.
  • Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at

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