Unoccupied council buildings can quickly become tempting hangouts for all kinds of unwelcome visitors. So to make sure your buildings stay guest-free, safe – and protected by your property cover – do these three crucial things, fast.

What is an ‘unoccupied building’ – and how do I protect it?

Under Statewide’s Property Mutual Scheme, an ‘unoccupied building’ is a property that’s been vacant or unoccupied for more than 60 consecutive days.

When left empty, these buildings become ideal targets for squatters, thieves and vandals – especially if you’ve let your usual fire and security protection systems lapse.

While professional graffiti art is celebrated, its inferior cousin – tagging – is not the aesthetic most residents want for their unoccupied municipal buildings. The same goes for broken windows or fire-damaged facades.

So, if your building meets the unoccupied building criterion – and is valued at over $2.5 million – you must do three things to ensure your building is properly covered against damages (man-made, or otherwise):

  1. Notify Statewide Mutual that your building is unoccupied.
  2. Ensure that your valuation is up to date.
  3. Maintain the same degree of fire and security protection as prior to cessation of normal operations.

Why does the building’s value matter?

If your building is undervalued, you’re at risk of insufficient cover for damages incurred.

And with property and building costs changing rapidly, it’s not unusual for councils to fall afoul of a property undervaluation – often as the result of an unintentional oversight.

The Property Scheme Wording excludes cover for undeclared, unoccupied buildings valued over $2.5 million. So, it’s particularly important to act if you suspect your property’s value has increased.

In the past, we’ve received claims from councils for properties worth more than $2.5 million that were undervalued and unregistered as unoccupied. A combined blow – and headache – indeed.

That’s why it’s essential that you maintain up-to-date valuations on your buildings and declare them to Statewide if they’re unoccupied, or about to become so. 

As a Statewide member council, you receive periodic routine valuations every four to five years. But to ensure your vacant properties are fully covered against loss, it’s good practice to seek independent valuations regularly. And if there is a variance, let us know.

 

How else can I protect unoccupied buildings from damage?

Finally, if a building becomes unoccupied, don’t let it fall off the regular maintenance schedule. After all, prevention is the key to reducing the risk of natural or malicious damage.

So, in addition to maintaining the same level of fire protection and security systems – as per the terms and conditions of the Property Mutual Scheme Wording – be sure to undertake these tasks, too:

  • Keep the perimeter fencing secure and in good order.
  • Maintain landscaping, especially during the summer fire season.
  • Check that security and fire protection services are up-to-date and working.
  • Install preventative pest control to avoid vermin damage.
  • Disconnect utilities that are no longer required – like gas or water.

 

Have an unoccupied building to report? Let us know using the Unoccupied Building Checklist. Or get in touch with your Account Manager.

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