Those owners who think that they can do without unoccupied property insurance are being warned to think again, as the number of empty houses and flats being targeted for burglary is on the increase.

Official figures and anecdotal evidence from the UK’s police forces suggest that empty properties are seen as a very viable target by not only opportunistic thieves, but organised gangs as well. Landlords up and down the country are being warned to ensure that they firstly have good unoccupied property insurance and that they have the right sort of cover.

There has been a spate of crimes throughout the UK which follow a similar pattern. Thieves target properties which they can see are consistently empty and also properties that are being built, or being refurbished.

A senior police officer, who did not want to be named, is worried that these sort of crimes are on the increase. He said that there were two types of criminal activity. Firstly, there were the thieves who came upon a property being built, or refurbished, and took their chance when no-one was around, banking on being able to exploit the often lax security and a few minutes to grab what they could. It is surprising how much could be swiped in a short period of time and then be sold to scrap merchants, and some shop owners, who looked the other way when it came to questions of provenance and ownership.

Ripping out expensive copper pipework and electric cable might only take minutes and this could be easily exchanged for money at a later date. Also, some builders made it easy, leaving expensive materials and power tools lying around which could be easily stolen and then ‘fenced’ for quite a bit of money.

The policeman said:

“Think about it. In a matter of minutes a thief could be through a house and out the back with a handful of materials and tools that might only net him around a hundred quid in the pub, but could be thousands of pounds to replace. It happens so quickly and easily, but the paperwork and cost of replacement is so great, that the effect of such a robbery is multiplied many times over.”

Organised thieves adopt a different approach. They work in small gangs, with a number of vans at their disposal, and spend time planning their thefts. They will garner information about empty properties and then plan a raid, mostly in darkness and in the early hours, which gives them time to reap the maximum reward for their efforts. In effect, over a number of hours, they will use a small team to steal as much as possible, from any furniture right through to all fixtures and fittings. In effect, they can strip a house bare overnight.

So, the message is, don’t skimp on the unoccupied property insurance; it could be more expensive in the long run.

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