9 Tips on How to Protect a Vacant Commercial Property in Ontario

Protecting A Vacant Commercial Property In Ontario

Investing in a commercial property is typically because you plan to make good on that investment by putting the property to work as a functioning business location. The plan rarely lets it sit vacant for months or years on end, but sometimes plans change, and there's no choice but to leave a building unoccupied for an extended period. Of course, that can make it a target for criminal activity and leave it vulnerable to other types of damage, such as pest infestations, water damage and fire.

That's why it's so critically important that commercial property owners know how to protect vacant commercial property in Ontario and take the necessary steps to do so. The last thing you want is for your investment to be destroyed while you're waiting for your opportunity to move to the next phase of what you have planned for it. These tips will give you a sense of what you need to do to protect a vacant commercial property so you can rest assured it's secure and sound while you're not there and ready to go when needed.

Why Is It Important to Have Commercial Vacant Property Insurance?

Before we dive into the various methods you need to know about protecting a vacant commercial property, we need to talk about the very first thing you should do to protect yourself if something goes wrong. If damage occurs, get the right commercial vacant property insurance. Like all other insurance policies, vacant property insurance doesn't prevent something from happening to your commercial property—but it does prevent you from suffering significant financial losses if your property is damaged or destroyed by an insured peril.

Insurance for a vacant commercial building can offer you insurance compensation to deal with the effects of various risks, from vandalism and malicious mischief to fires and natural disasters. Suppose your property suffers damage or destruction from an insured peril. In that case, you can expect financial support for the cost of repair and restoration up to the coverage limits listed on your policy. Commercial vacant property insurance is only available from some insurance companies due to the higher risk of damage. Still, it's well worth looking at quotes from the companies that offer it. You can count on the experienced brokers at Morison Insurance to track down the best options for your insurance needs and a range of quotes.

How to Protect a Vacant Commercial Property in Ontario

Just because you're not there doesn't mean there aren't ways to keep your commercial property safe. Here are some key tips that can go a long way to protect a vacant commercial property in Ontario.

1. Perform Regular Property Inspections

When you need to protect a vacant commercial property, performing routine property inspections regularly or having someone else do it on your behalf is essential. It's the only way to truly know what's happening at your vacant commercial building and halt problems like pest infestations, damaged plumbing, and potential vandalism. When you have commercial vacant property insurance, the insurance company will often require you or your agent to visit the property regularly for this exact reason. Stop by every few days or once per week, and if you need help to do that yourself, find a reliable property manager who can do it for you.

2. Have All Exterior Entry Locks Replaced

Suppose your commercial property had ever operated as a business before, whether it belonged to you or someone else at the time. In that case, it's important to have all exterior entry locks replaced. Think of how many employees have come and gone from the location over the years and how many were given keys to access the building. In all likelihood, some of those keys were never retrieved when employees left the business, and they could be floating around out there or have already fallen into the wrong hands. This problem can be eliminated simply and effectively by calling a professional locksmith to re-key all the locks on your exterior entries.

3. Maintain the Building Exterior

This is one of the most common ways of deterring squatters, vandals, thieves and casual trespassers who tend to target vacant buildings. While general maintenance measures won't fool people who live or work in the neighbourhood and regularly observe the comings and goings around their properties, making a building appear cared-for and well-maintained can prevent it from drawing casual criminal attention. There are multiple ways to do this, including:

  • Mowing grass and trimming bushes or trees in summer, shovelling snow in winter and generally maintaining the landscaping (or paying someone else to take care of it) so it looks well-kept
  • Making sure mail isn't piling up on the doorstep
  • Keep the exterior of the building free of algae, moss and other grime, and take care of deterioration such as peeling paint or wood rot

4. Board Up Windows and Doors

This step is only sometimes necessary, but sometimes it's the best way to help protect a vacant commercial property. That's particularly true for a business property with large ground-level display windows, as they are easy targets for vandals. There are multiple ways to board up a property, such as nailing plywood over windows and exterior doors or getting purpose-built "cage" covers to prevent entry. Ensure you don't neglect basement windows, as they're low to the ground and easily broken into by human and animal trespassers.

5. Invest in a Security System

Installing alarm systems is one of the best things you can do to protect a vacant commercial property. It's most effective when the alarms are monitored by a security company that will call you if an alarm is tripped since you won't be around to hear an alarm going off. Motion detector lights and security cameras can also be significant visual deterrents, so cameras should not be hidden but positioned where they're visible so people know the property is being monitored. Steel security doors may also be a good investment as they're much more challenging to break into than a standard exterior door made of wood, PVC or fibreglass.

6. Talk to Your Business Neighbours

The neighbours who operate their own businesses near your commercial property can be your greatest allies when you need extra eyes to protect a vacant commercial property. Most people know what's happening in the neighbourhoods where they work and own businesses, and they have a vested interest in keeping the area free of crime and in good condition. After all, a deteriorated or broken-down building will only attract the wrong kind of attention to their businesses and discourage legitimate customers. Introduce yourself to neighbouring business owners or property managers, explain your plans for the property, and give them your phone number. Make it clear that they are welcome to call you anytime if they notice suspicious activity around the property or anything else that requires your attention.

7. Maintain the Plumbing

Trespassers and vandals aren't the only threats that can cause severe damage to your vacant property. In many areas of Ontario, water damage is much more likely to be an issue. That includes overland flooding from a lake or river that has burst its banks, but plumbing systems are the most common source of water damage. One of the critical things you can do to protect a vacant commercial property is to ensure the plumbing is well-maintained, especially in the colder months when there's a risk of frozen pipes. That includes running water in sinks and flushing toilets every so often, which should be one of the things you or your property manager take care of during regular visits. If the property has a basement and a sump pump still needs to be installed, especially in an area prone to overland flooding, it's well worth considering having one put in. You can even get ones that will connect to a smartphone app and warn you if the pump has to turn on.

8. Use the HVAC System in Extreme Weather

If it's scorching outside, especially in an area with high humidity, turn on the air conditioner in your vacant property. Air conditioning units don't just cool rooms; they also remove excess humidity, preventing mould and mildew growth caused by humid air condensing into water droplets and seeping into surfaces such as wood and drywall. It's also a good idea to keep the heat on during cold snaps, even at a low level like 10 degrees, to help prevent plumbing pipes from freezing and bursting.

9. Set Up Pest Control Measures

When rodents or insects invade, they can cause huge problems that range from excessive grim and foul odours to chewed-up walls and, in severe cases, contamination so bad that the building can't be saved. When determining how to protect a vacant commercial property in Ontario, limiting exposure to vermin infestations is a crucial puzzle for business owners. Rodents and insects are opportunistic creatures that would instead find holes than create them, so making sure the exterior of the building doesn't have any gaps or cracks available is necessary. Ensure nothing inside, like food or natural materials such as wool, will act as an attractant. If you suspect the invasion has already begun, set up some traps—if they are triggered, you know you need to take further action, such as calling an exterminator.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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