How to protect vacant commercial property

As we watched COVID-19 spread rapidly across Europe and witnessed the extreme measures being taken to deal with it, we thought it might happen here.

However, the extent and the speed at which the special measures were finally implemented in the UK surprised most businesses, especially in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.


Having to shut up a business for an indeterminate period, literally overnight, with all the stock still on the shelves in a lot of cases, has created significant challenges for owners and managers.

And then the inevitable effect on offices and factories as social distancing became mandatory and company staff were either furloughed or redeployed to work from home.

This is our current reality. A no-man’s land of closed and empty premises with no one knowing precisely how long the situation is going to last. And not every business can turn to online trading.

The key issue for those responsible for the security of their business premises, whether you are a property or business owner, a tenant, or facilities manager, is to keep your property safe and secure for the duration.


“This is not as straightforward as locking up at the end of a working day,” says Gideon Reichental of property security specialists, Clearway Services. “There are a lot of other details property managers or owners need to consider.”

Gideon has been working in the property and security industries for many years and is a seasoned expert. He is also Chair of the Vacant Property Section of the British Security Industry Association. “I thought I’d seen most things over the years but we’ re certainly living in strange and unusual times now,” he says. “Our current circumstances present us with new challenges”.

When you look at your property and its security, you have to look at it through different eyes. Previously busy streets and trade parks are quiet with little or no passing traffic.

Closed premises now present an easy target for intruders, those looking to fly-tip or potentially to squat and they frequently offer the added temptation of stock sitting on the shelves; also office equipment on empty desks such as screens, printers and other electronics; widescreen TVs on the wall are particularly attractive. And then there are also company vehicles or plant which may be sitting parked up in a yard.”


These are the obvious things and can be dealt with by ensuring all windows and doors are securely locked and bolted, blinds or shutters drawn where fixed, and vehicles and plant are behind gates with decent locks or barriers, preferably under that gaze of a CCTV camera. Tills should be emptied and left open and valuable stock, such as alcohol, moved out of sight or off the premises if feasible.

TV’s and other screens should be moved off walls and desks to store cupboards and consider boarding up vulnerable entrances and exits with metal screens for additional security.

Gideon continues, “Every single door, internal and external, should be closed and locked. Removing visible temptation is what it’s about and focussing on the deterrent factor, including a simple warning notice reminding would-be thieves they are under surveillance or that there is an intruder alarm. Making sure your security systems work and your response details are all up to date is essential.”

However, temporarily mothballing a building, even for a few short weeks or months, is more than removing valuables and locking up securely to prevent unauthorised ingression or theft. Water systems need to be kept safe and healthy (in line with the Health & Safety Executive’s L8 rules for legionella control); both active and passive fire protection systems and exits/escapes need checking,  as should refrigerant gases; electrical and gas service safety checks are very important as is ventilation hygiene.

It goes without saying all security systems and lifts, if they are still in service, also need monitoring along with IT systems. These are just some of the items and there is a full list available for those new to this sort of situation under industry standard SFG30.

Just check online.

As a final measure, all outdoor areas should be secured via concrete blocks where possible to prevent unwanted guests and illegal trespassing via vehicles.

Temporary Vertical Concrete Barriers

Image Credit: PBS

As is evident, there is far more to shutting up temporarily than most people realise, the least of which is ensuring your insurance policy still covers the situation. Another item, and probably one of the most important, to check.

Everyone wants to come out of this lockdown with the least disruption to their commercial interests and be able to get up and running again as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is to ensure your business premises is kept as safe and secure as possible in your absence, so consult a professional and be safe, not sorry.