We’re living in unprecedented and uncertain times. That statement has become such a common refrain in the last year that it is almost a punchline, but that doesn’t make it any less true. One symptom of those times is a rise in vacant commercial property, from empty storefronts to untenanted offices.
Data from Statista and the National Association of Realtors shows that not only has the number of vacant properties been on the rise since mid-year 2020, but the trend is also expected to continue through the end of 2021 and possibly into 2022.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on commercial property vacancies. Because so many employees now work from home, commercial property owners and managers report a 69% increase in tenants moving into properties with smaller footprints. Reports also show that commercial property vacancy rates are expected to reach 19.2% by the end of the year, surpassing the previous high of 17.6% set in 2010.
All this unoccupied property has many implications for commercial security in Kansas City and across the country. The fact is, empty buildings make tempting targets for burglars because these properties are less likely to be protected by commercial security cameras and other security measures. Burglaries already account for more than $4 billion in losses across the United States each year, and vacant buildings are ripe for the picking.
Even when buildings are unoccupied, thieves can still find plenty of valuable items inside. Burglars may break into abandoned buildings to lift a variety of items:
- Copper pipe
- Copper wiring
- HVAC systems
- Fixtures and plumbing
- Building materials including timber, stone, and even tile
- Tools and construction equipment
- Anything else that may be left on the premises
Commercial security risks aren’t limited to prospective burglars. Vandals are drawn to abandoned buildings, and they can do considerable damage to a property that might otherwise be ripe for reinvestment when times improve. Then there’s natural deterioration, which can not only cause a problem for the building itself but could provide hazardous to anyone who does enter the property, from trespassers to contractors to potential lessees.
Of course, not all empty buildings are created equal. These days, you may run into competing terms like “vacant” and “unoccupied.” The term “vacant’ technically means a building that is completely empty of all its tenants and assets, although insurance companies may consider a building vacant if less than 31% of its total floor space is occupied. An “unoccupied” property, on the other hand, is one where most of the assets remain, just waiting for owners and staff to come back when, say, a pandemic loosens its grip. In both events, buildings that are untenanted have unique security needs, and they benefit from extra precautions.
Best Commercial Security Practices When You Anticipate an Extended Vacancy
No one wants a costly break-in or insurance claim. If you have a property that’s standing vacant or if you anticipate a lengthy vacancy in the future, you can take some basic measures to help your property stay safe until it’s back in use.
- Keep it clean and tidy. A property that looks “lived in” is less likely to attract bad elements. Keep the building’s exterior and parking areas clear of litter.
- Keep the utilities on. In addition to keeping the electricity on, you’ll want to keep the heat running in winter and the air conditioner running in the summer. Extremes of heat, cold, and humidity can damage your property as surely as any vandal.
- Keep any outside assets secured. This could include items such as large planters or patio furniture that can’t conveniently be brought inside.
- Retain lawncare and snow removal services. Your building will appear occupied, and you’ll avoid potential fines from municipal agencies.
- Keep the smoke and fire detection systems in good working order. Check them regularly, just as you would if people were still in the building.
- Consider hiring a property management company. A property management company can handle many of these tasks for you and help ensure that your property is watched over, even when it isn’t occupied.
- Invest in commercial security solutions. Security cameras, burglar alarms, and access control systems can help protect your property when people are there and when they aren’t.
Top five reasons securing vacant property is a benefit to owners, property managers, and leasing agents:
- Vacant buildings that are well-secured are less likely to attract vandalism, break-ins, and theft.
- A vacant property that has been secured is also better prepared for leasing, occupancy, and resale.
- Securing a vacant property helps owners and managers detect security problems immediately, whether it’s a fire or a break-in.
- Secured properties maintain their value and represent lower insurance risks.
- Security systems in vacant properties help manage authorized entry into the building and improve overall safety.
You’re convinced and you’re ready to start providing commercial security solutions for your untenanted properties. What solutions are right for a building that’s sitting empty versus one where people come and go every day? Fortunately, a lot of the same products that help to protect active businesses are also good at securing buildings that are sitting vacant, from commercial security cameras to access control systems. Here are a few of the best ones:
Commercial Security Cameras
Whether a business is busy and thriving or sitting fallow for the time being, security cameras are the backbone of many commercial security systems, and for good reason. Security cameras hooked to a network video recorder (NVR) can not only help you keep an eye on your property, whether anyone is there or not, they can provide you with a record of what happened there, should it become necessary.
Burglar Alarms, Monitoring and Access Control
A basic alarm system that includes glass break and motion detectors is a good investment for any commercial property—occupied or not. However, simply having a security system is often not enough. In conjunction with standard burglar alarms and 24/7 monitoring services, access control systems provide a tremendous amount of additional commercial security for buildings that are standing empty simply because all entry and exit data can be logged, tracked, and recorded. In addition, access control systems are especially helpful for properties where, for example, contractors, building maintenance personnel, and property managers frequently come and go.
As we near the end of 2021, property owners and managers face unique challenges. Fortunately, the right commercial security considerations can help take some of the worry off your plate so that you can focus on other things.
Want to learn more about residential and commercial security in Kansas City? A-TEC Security has all the solutions you need, from commercial security cameras to access control systems, intrusion detection, 24/7 monitoring, and much more. For more information on how you can secure your home or business, contact A-TEC Security today.