Considerations for commercial premises.

It’s not just homeowners that need to take extra steps to protect their properties in winter. Here, Richard Parslow, our Head of Risk Management, looks at why this should be on the top of everyone’s list.

This is the time of year when homeowners are given a wealth of advice on how to protect their properties, as it’s the season when most water claims are made.

It’s a problem that rises every year – according to the Association of British Insurers, the cost of domestic escape of water claims rose to £483 million in the first nine months of 2017 and in 2018, the average cost of weather-related insurance claims for burst pipes averaged over £10,000.  

Winter weather brings new challenges to add to the usual list of damage causes (namely bad DIY, cheap tools or appliances and hidden networks). The colder climate means the addition of freezing water, burst pipes, blocked drains and bunged up gutters. All issues that can be prevented by a homeowner, if property care and inspection is maintained throughout the year.

But there’s much more to consider

But what of the properties that don’t have a homeowner? The offices, the warehouses, the schools, the manufacturing,  the rented buildings, shops, restaurants and hotels?

Complex pipe and drainage systems in high rise residential properties, city centre restaurant and retail units, or old manufacturing plants, can cause an abundance of problems – and the more complicated the system, the larger the risk of water escape. While an insurer can handle the claim and allow you to manage the expense, these issues can cause huge disruption to a commercial business or multi-resident building, as outlined by BIBA.

We worked with a clothing manufacturer who, a couple of winters ago, fell victim to the weather. Heavy wind blew a plastic bag up from the street into its gutters, where it lodged unseen and caused a blockage. The water built up on the roof until one morning after heavy rain, the management team arrived to find the roof had collapsed in on the main warehouse area, with water damaging their stock, their storage and their equipment. Thankfully, nobody was on the premises at the time. They were able to get things back up and running quite quickly and although it took a little longer to sort, their insurance cover meant that they were able to recoup their costs. However, it had an immediate impact: not just on their products and computers but on their logistical operation, their communication methods and their morale. All of this could have been avoided if their gutters had been checked.

A culture of diligence

The key here is communication – ensure that there are no gaps in your property care and that things are being checked. Building owners with multiple renting tenants must ensure that they communicate the risks and what the signs of water damage are to their tenants. Those tenants must know when they need to flag something to the managing agent or building supervisor. This can be communicated in all contracts of course, but regular reminders, signage in communal areas, a simple winter mailer through the door, can help remind everyone. The immediate expense will be to the property owner, but the inconvenience will be to the tenant, should water damage occur. This is therefore in everyone’s best interests.

Similarly, in commercial properties, employees need to know the signs to look out for and ensure that they advise their managers if they spot a leaking appliance or build up of water. The downtime being enforced upon some of us could be used as a training opportunities to ensure this is communicated to everyone. Ensuring that everyone knows what to look for, and who to inform, is key.

All it takes is one plastic bag

Many commercial properties may sadly be standing empty. Greater Manchester alone has lost more than 1,000 shops and other retail units since the turn of the century and with two retail giants announcing their closure just this last month , the use of city centre properties may well continue to change, thanks in a large part to Covid. While most of them will hopefully re-open in 2021, the fact is that we have a great many buildings of all types, that are not being checked regularly for potential water damage.

Even if these properties stay closed for a short time, their owners need to ensure that they are monitored, to prevent damage to them and their neighbours. Your insurance will cover the cost, but who will make up the lost time?

All it can take is one rogue plastic bag.

As with most winter ailments, it comes down to the same thing. Prevention is the best cure.

For more information

If you would like to discuss Risk Management in your organisation get in touch with Richard Parslow on 0161 234 9376 or by e-mail at: [email protected]

You can return to our news section by clicking here.