Vacant or Unoccupied Property, or Shut Down Operations

By: Newman Insurance
April 24, 2020

During this public health emergency, many businesses are having to cease operations and idle their facilities. This introduces a number of risks. Vacant or unoccupied property, or shut down operations are material changes in use and may limit or void coverage. 

Please notify us immediately if your property is vacant or unoccupied, or if you have shut down your operations.

Please advise us what is being done to protect the property from damage or loss. The insurance company may need to change the policy terms and conditions (such as increasing a deductible, reducing coverage or adding a vacancy permit).

Review the insurance policy for warranty or exclusion conditions that may affect coverage due to any change in use.

Where practical and permitted, the following are some best practices that should be adhered to:


  • Conduct routine checks of the premises, as frequently as possible (daily is best) minimum 72 hour intervals.
  • Lock and secure all doors, windows, openings and ensure alarm systems are active (if present).
  • Shut-off water and drain the system and appliances of water (excluding sprinkler systems).
  • Maintain sufficient heating to prevent freezing damage.


  • If you have security patrols, increase the frequency of visits to the property.
  • Ensure all declared fire protection or burglary alarm systems are active (where present).
  • Ensure all fire-protection (sprinklers and smoke/fire-detection) systems are active.
  • Maintain security and fire protection inspection services normally present (if any). Notify us immediately of sprinkler deficiencies at the property (if any).
  • Ensure contingency plans are up to date and include relevant phone numbers.

Outside Premises:

  • All rubbish be removed from within and about premises.
  • Outside combustible storage should be kept at least 8 metres (26 feet) away from non-masonry and blank exterior walls of the building.
  • Remove any overgrowth of vegetation and shrubs from the landscaping to remove hiding places for vandals.
  • Access routes to the building should be kept free and clear of any obstructions so that fire departments can access your property easily.
  • Remove containers or garbage cans, as well as trash or flyers. Containers might attract garbage dumping or hazardous waste, such as used motor oil or other chemicals. Vandals and arsonists are more likely to target building that appear noticeably vacant or idle.
  • Ensure there is adequate nighttime lighting around building perimeters. Conduct weekly checks for burned-out lighting.
  • Conduct monthly roof checks to look for roof drains clogged by vegetation, bird nests or vandalism.
  • Where practical to do so, block or section off most of the parking lot to prevent vehicles from entering the property.
The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.

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