Finding the right tenant or buyer for heritage property can take significantly longer than with more modern dwellings, particularly if the property is in need of refurbishment. Therefore, preventing heritage buildings from remaining empty and unused is particularly important.
Obtaining special planning consent for listed properties can be a complicated and drawn-out process. As a result, some listed buildings are left with vulnerabilities, such as weakened timber doorframes or damaged windows, for extended periods of time. This advanced level of care and legal negotiation can create a more complicated security challenge, which can translate into significantly higher maintenance costs.
In order to reduce the risks associated with vacant buildings, and to prevent them from diminishing in value, you should consider solutions for their protection.
Why do I need to secure my heritage property?
According to Government figures, dwelling location, home type and tenure all factor into your vulnerability, but empty properties are most at risk. In a study, burglars reported that believing a house is occupied served as a deterrent in 84% of cases.
Its common sense that empty buildings would be a target for criminals. But even the most basic security measures can reduce your risk of burglary by more than half. Historic England reported that in a single year, 18.7% of all listed buildings had been physically affected by crime, with lead and metal thefts being the most common.
One estimate suggests that pictures and sculptures worth more than 100 million are stolen each year in the UK alone. Vandals are another risk; a vacant property is at risk of graffiti, or worseextensive structural or fire damage.
Vacant properties pose serious security risks to commercial and private property alike, but heritage property is most often the target of squatters. Leaving a property vacant for as little as 24 hours carries a significant risk if savvy squatters are able to gain access.
Oaksure Property Protection provide comprehensive, around-the-clock protection for listed properties while they are in between uses. They note that stationing live-in guardians in a vacant building qualifies the property for a lower insurance rate of around 0.2% of rebuild value, compared to the 0.35% of rebuild value premium for vacant properties.
How to secure a heritage property
There are certain requirements to meet when securing a heritage or listed property regarding minimal intervention: Any changes to a heritage building must cause as little impact to the building as possible. Only the minimum amount of work necessary to achieve the security objective should be undertaken, and any changes to the historical fabric of a building should be reversible wherever possible.
Still, in all cases, perimeter security and intruder alarms, security lighting and CCTV can be installed with sympathetic care and attention to a historic propertys features.
Installing burglar alarms can pose challenges in listed and heritage property, but one solution is the installation of intruder alarms designed specifically for the protection of heritage property. According to security experts Carter Security, wired alarm systems can be a complex and time consuming task you might have to sacrifice aesthetics due to cables running everywhere, which can breach planning consent for listed properties. By comparison, wireless solutions minimise the invasiveness of installing these security devices while still providing effective detection of unauthorised entry to your property.
Remote monitoring of intruder alarms can ensure a swift response to any breach of security, even when youre not on site.
A common measure for ensuring the physical security of empty property is to install additional barriers such as gates and grilles, keeping criminals at bay and your mind at ease.
Contrary to popular belief, boarding up a property can leave a building more vulnerable to a range of security threats. Not only do steel and wooden boards damage a property during installation, but they increase the risk of dilapidation and vandalism. Furthermore, their presence sends a clear sign to squatters and thieves that a property is not in use.
The best way to avoid all threats to your empty property is to avoid and behaviours or practices that alert potential criminals to the fact your property is empty. Maintaining service staff such as gardeners and making regular visits to the property can achieve this.
Installing security lighting can be a highly effective and low-cost security solution, designed to deter potential burglars or vandals from your heritage or listed property.
Lighting your property also sends out a clear message to the potential thief that the owner has put in place security measures. Use timer switches on internal lights so they switch on and off automatically and make it look like there is someone present in the property
During the hours of darkness, a property without any lights on not only suggests that a building may be empty but also makes it unlikely passing members of the public will notice any untoward goings on. Using Dawn to Dusk lighting or PIR (passive infrared) lighting, which activates when movement is detected can be a real deterrent.
Closed circuit television (CCTV) is often considered a valuable antidote to any security risk. Recorded images are useful to the police as they may help to identify an intruder later.
While CCTV is extremely useful for providing surveillance, it must be remembered that to be effective there has to be a proper response to security breaches picked up by camera. Always consider who is going to respond to any incidents spotted on a monitor.
Security personnel & guardians
It has been estimated that to maintain a single security officer presence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year can cost as much as 85,000 per annum.
Live-in guardians can reduce security costs by more than 90% when compared with static security services. Not only that, but guards will maintain the buildings infrastructure and ensure the utilities remain in working order. This means the building will remain in operating condition, protecting its value and keeping it ready to be occupied by future tenants.
The guardians employed by dotdotdotproperty.com, a social enterprise as well as a commercial one, are expected to spend at least 16 hours a month volunteering in their communities.
We are only interested in people who have that kind of commitment to building strong communities, says founder Katharine Hibbert. Now thats certainly one way to make a passion project for the preservation of heritage and listed property beneficial for the entire community.