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Unoccupied buildings - what you need to know

There are wide insurance implications relating to vacant churches and it is a policy requirement that we are informed about any such properties as soon as possible. In the winter months vacant properties are particularly vulnerable. PCCs and Vestries should be aware that under our Parishguard policy, cover starts to be restricted when a building becomes unused, and we need to be able to review the matter with them personally.

By taking some of the actions detailed below, you can hopefully minimise potential damage and inconvenience, as you seek to take care of a vacant property pending decisions on its future, or while awaiting its disposal. Before a building is left unoccupied, you may wish to consider the points below. This advice applies throughout the year:

Security

  • Does the church have any vulnerable access points?

  • Is vehicular access to the site restricted?

  • Are all boundary walls and fences secure?

  • Are all doors sound and locked with adequate locks to BS3621 standard?

  • Are all windows in good repair?

  • If applicable, are all security alarms in good working order?

  • If applicable, are all internal and external lights in good working order?

  • Have all keys been accounted for and recorded?

  • Have the church’s neighbours been informed and asked to report any suspicious activity to the police?

Housekeeping

  • Have all combustibles been removed from the premises (inside and out)?

  • Have the mains water, gas and electrical supplies been switched off (unless required to power any alarms)?

  • Have all flammable liquids been removed from the site and any storage tanks emptied?

  • As water tanks can easily freeze in the winter, has the central heating system been drained?

  • Will the property be heated and loft hatches (if the property has a loft) be left open to reduce the chance of pipes freezing?

  • Have all outbuildings been emptied of contents?

  • Is the churchyard in a good state of repair?

  • Are there any signs of vandalism?

  • Do the premises generally look well cared for?

  • Are gutters, gullies and drains clear?

  • Is there adequate ventilation?

  • Has the PCC or Vestry arranged a regular inspection programme and review of the premises?

If a building is already unoccupied

Have you informed us? If not, please let us know straightaway. Are appropriate steps being taken to secure, maintain and regularly inspect the premises? We have experienced a number of claims previously that could have been averted or minimised if adequate steps had been taken. We strongly advise that where a building is likely to be vacated and left unoccupied, whether completely or for a prolonged period of time, a programme of regular inspections, routinemaintenance and risk management is followed.

Did you know?

  • Under your Parishguard or Hallguard policy, cover may be restricted, special terms imposed or an additional premium charged when a building becomes unused

  • There may need to be further changes to the Church policy and terms of cover depending on individual circumstances

  • Ecclesiastical will arrange for a resurvey inspection following closure so that we can review the situation and provide management guidance.

Please don’t wait to tell us if a building is unoccupied or is going to be in the future. Let us know today by calling our church underwriting team on 0345 777 3322 as it’s very important that you comply with any conditions or unoccupancy warranties listed in your policy. We’d also like to informed about all incidents of building damage. Together we can take precautionary action to reduce the risk of future problems arising.

* This advice is provided to you as best practice guidance from Ecclesiastical. Please check your policy documents for details of any conditions specific to your policy.
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.