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Survey reveals key vacant commercial property concerns

10 September 2009

An online survey carried out by vacant property management experts SitexOrbis in collaboration with Estates Gazette has revealed how those managing vacant property prioritise their concerns.

The threat of empty property rating and increased costs of commercial sales and lettings have left this sector vulnerable to adverse market conditions.  But when asked to choose the ‘top 3’ vacant property issues, 22 percent of 100 respondents chose security as their biggest problem.  Ranking joint second in the list of major headaches were loss of rental income (19 percent) and empty property tax.  A further 15 percent chose maintenance as one of their key concerns and 13 percent specified compliance with insurance stipulations.

The ‘credit crunch’ is bringing an increasing number of vacant commercial properties to the market.  The amount of available office space in the City of London has increased by 90 percent between mid-2008 and mid-2009 resulting in 10.2 percent of all City of London office space being vacant1. 

Company closures and retail closures nationwide have repeated that pattern in most major cities – town commercial vacancy rates in England and Wales have risen from just over 4% a year ago to nearly 12 percent in the middle of 2009.  Taking the North of England alone, there is twice as much vacant commercial property as there was a year ago2.

Despite Ministry of Justice assurances that property crime is decreasing, those managing vacant property, report exactly the opposite, as rising unemployment and repossessions cause increases in squatting, vandalism, arson and break-ins.

Another interesting outcome of the survey is that more than half of the respondents (53 percent) are unsure about the health and safety regulations for vacant properties.  This is a matter of serious concern, given that a landlord’s statutory obligations remain the same, even when a property is vacant.  Insurers are reporting a rise in large-scale fires that are increasingly putting lives at risk.  Commercial fire damage cost £865m in 2008, up 15 percent on the previous year (source: ABI).

Asked which three types of security systems for vacant properties were most important to them, 22 percent of those responding to the survey selected electronic security systems, 19 percent man-guarding and 17 percent perimeter fencing.  Interestingly, it is not always realised that electronic systems using battery-powered alarms, wireless devices and remote monitoring can cut security costs by as much as 50 percent by comparison with man-guarding plus CCTV systems, yet have been proved to be equally effective in practice.

SitexOrbis provides a full range of security and maintenance services for vacant property, keeping property in a fit condition for viewing and attracting new occupants.  Wireless alarms and other electronic security measures keep buildings free of problems like squatters, criminal damage, arson and graffiti.  Regular property inspections and 24/7 monitoring are used to ensure that standards are maintained.  Reactive maintenance ensures that issues arising from lack of use are dealt with promptly.

The SitexOrbis approach is always to achieve maximum security and full maintenance of vacant property in the most cost-effective way possible.  To see the results of the survey of vacant property managers’ opinions, go to

Full details and a detailed technical brochure are available by phoning 08000 830 850.
References:  1., David Doyle’s article on NB Real Estate report.

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