Avoid Making a Loss on Empty Business Properties

Following the UK government’s cessation of relief rates for vacant properties in 2008, empty business rates have been a new addition to a costly catalog of fears for some enterprises.

Squatters, thieves and the general effects of dilapidation can also cause a serious profit loss, especially for those already paying an inflated business rate.

Empty office
photo credit: Matt / Flickr

With this guide you arm yourself against the two major financial hazards faced by those who run the risk of having vacant properties.


A typical immediate solution for any empty business premises is “boarding-up”. While this might be effective in the short-term, it can inadvertently advertise that a building is empty and attract the attention of professional thieves or squatters. Some businesses try to bolster this security with temporary patrolling guards that cost up to £8,000 a month.

Such huge costs for security can become infeasible, especially when you’re paying empty business rates too.

A cheaper alternative that simultaneously puts an end to empty business rates are property guardians. With a vacant property security (VPS) specialist like Oaksure Property Protection, a property can be occupied by SIA (security industry authority) trained guards for a management fee of £200 a month.

With a property guardian service, occupants function as security personnel while clearly demonstrating that they live at a property through their comings-and-goings. This means that invading squatters are much easier to deal with: when a vacant property is officially occupied, as it is with Oaksure, squatting is punishable by criminal law.

Due to the fact that guardians are required to perform regular patrols and checkups, accidental damages such as burst pipes can also be swiftly identified and reported for repair.

Vacant property theft

As documented in a Zurich sponsored journal on metal theft in vacant properties, there has been a 2500% increase in the cost of medium and large losses since 2004. In one of the case studies from the journal, a vacant warehouse, though in a “good class of area”, had been stripped, and consequently so damaged that the cost of repairs was in excess of £1m.

One of the most simple ways to deter thieves from entering an uninhabited property is to remove temptation. If a property has been completely cleaned out, there is less inclination for thieves to break in. Although emptying an office or business space in the proper way, i.e through recycling unwanted items, can be time consuming and costly, it is far less costly than having to pay for repair work.

Comprehensive office clearance services that deal with WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) and Duty of Care performed by companies like Clearance Solutions can help to keep costs down. They will sell any equipment deemed reusable through their network of contacts and offset the profit against their client’s bill. Clients will have a reduced bill if the clearance company can sell on their desks, chairs, or radiators for example.

In addition to this, they offer all the documentation needed (such as detailed audit trails) as proof that waste was disposed of in as sustainable manner as possible. This helps a company keep their carbon footprint small and can be an appealing factor to potential customers.

Empty office space in London, UK
photo credit: Nick Garrot / Flickr

The future of empty rates

Business rate revaluation, the adjusting of business rate value to reflect property rate change, is supposed to occur every 5 years. The last revaluation was in 2010 and the next one, that should have occurred this year, has now been postponed until 2017.

Unfortunately, this means that nothing is going to change soon. Aspects that many hoped would be reversed, such as the reduction of the empty rates allowance from 12 months to 3 months, made during the recession, will stay in place.

The worst of the recession in 2012 saw the Government raising over £1bn on empty properties (a rise of 19% from the year before). The impact of this has seen negative effects on the state of business in towns and communities all over the country.

With preventative methods such as those outlined above, it is essential to make sure you’re not spending more money on your empty business property than is strictly necessary.