Despite attempts to control scrap metal sales, international demand has driven the theft of metals, especially copper. Metal thefts primarily occur at vacant properties and can leave building owners with substantial replacement and restoration costs.
Oldham said the replacement costs associated with stolen exterior air conditioner units and anterior piping and wiring could reach up to $3000. There’s also the potential for loss of rent and use during repairs.
Property insurance policies often have specific language that eliminates or limits recovery of buildings that are vacant for more than 60 days and can reduce payment amounts by 15 percent. Although operations may have ceased, liability exposures still remain and building owners are responsible for mitigating these risks.
“In some cases, liability has been assigned to the building owner when trespassers were injured on the property,” said Mark Oldham, assistant vice president and senior loss control consultant for Lockton Companies. “Liability has even been alleged when persons were injured in an effort to steal energized copper wire.”
To help identify the key areas of managing and maintaining unoccupied properties, Oldham’s newest white paper, “4 Prevention Measures for Reducing Theft at Vacant Properties,” outlines the risks associated with vacant properties and methods to preventing thefts. He also covers how your insurance may respond to claims.
The simplest way to avoid these claims is by conducting periodic inspections of the interior and exterior of the vacant property on a regular basis. Corrective actions or additional controls may be needed if evidence of unauthorized access or use is detected.
“Anything that can be considered an ‘attractive nuisance’ should be eliminated or fenced off,” said Oldham. “This is especially important if minors are involved.”
Additional recommendations include securing access to rooftops, utility corrals and vaults, minimizing exterior storage space, and adding building-mounted, outfacing floodlights.
The paper noted that it is imperative for building owners to take precautions to maintain vacant properties and to fully understand insurance contracts that may impact vacant properties in order to reduce costs and claims.
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