London region event review - managing vacant properties

London region event review - managing vacant properties

17-10-11 10:0 BIFM

With more than 764,000 empty residential properties, 14.7 per cent of all retail units being empty and 39 pubs closing every week in the UK it was no surprise that managing empty buildings is a hot topic for today’s facilities professional – more than 60 FMs attended a BIFM London region event at the Association of British Insurers last month, sponsored by SitexOrbis, to listen to the experts talk about managing vacant properties.

Mark Cosh, European director for empty property specialists SitexOrbis opened the discussion by talking about some of the issues facing vacant properties including loss of income, empty rates, compliance with insurance stipulations, increased maintenance and the duty of care. “Vacant property is a very small part of most facilities managers’ portfolios but takes up muxh of their time and causes the most pain,” he said.

Cosh outlined some of the dangers that befall organisations who fail to adequately manage their vacant buildings. A trespasser who fell through the roof of an empty building, which was poorly maintained, successfully sued for £567,000. Meanwhile a major company which failed to seal the letterbox of an empty building it had previously occupied, had bailiffs visit its head office after a minor debtor claim to the old building went unanswered.

Nick Shaw, divisional director at Vinci, was keen to emphasise that vacant is just a phase in a building’s lifecycle. “We must take an holistic approach to vacant property management, identify the key issues from the asset’s perspective including future use, timescales and brand protection.”

The insurer’s perspective on vacant property was given by Matt Gordon, underwriting manager at Aviva who cited metal theft as the key issue. “In 2003 there were just 10 claims for metal theft in churches, since 2007 there have been 7,500 claims at a cost of an estimated £23m. And the rising number of metal theft claims has put 2010 on course to be the second worst year for metal theft on record.” The problem, he said, is not so much the theft of the metal, but the damage thieves do ripping copper piping of the wall. He cited the example of a building which received £2.5m of damage to steal just £80,000 of metal.

SitexOrbis is running a quick survey about vacant property management – to be in with a chance to win an iPad2, visit The results will feed into a BIFM Good Practice Guide to Vacant Property Management, written and sponsored by SitexOrbis, which is being published in the autumn.

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