Vacant properties. Understanding the risks and the solutions

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1 Vacant properties Understanding the risks and the solutions

2 Table of contents Top risks for vacant properties 2 Copper theft and vandalism 2 Water damage 3 Fire 4 About the E&S Properties Program 5 Vacant properties: Understanding the risks and the solutions 1

3 Top risks for vacant properties It is important to understand that many of the traditional characteristics of vacant properties have changed in light of recent economic conditions. In the past, vacant properties were primarily abandoned commercial or industrial buildings and lots that, neglected by their owners, posed a threat to public safety. This is not necessarily the case in today s real estate market. Buildings may become vacant because major tenants are forced to move out due to a sluggish economy and the space takes longer to fill. Many of these vacant properties are newer, high-quality structures, fire resistant, equipped with sprinklers and supervised daily by watchmen. These may also be brand new buildings, built on spec, whose developers find it difficult to attract buyers. 1 Vacant buildings, even new, high-quality ones, are susceptible to certain risks, and the longer a building remains unoccupied, the more those risks increase. The top three losses in vacant buildings are: Copper theft and vandalism Water damage Fire Learn more about each of these risks, and how your customers can better protect their properties. Copper theft and vandalism Vacant buildings, particularly those that are not regularly monitored, are susceptible to vandalism and theft losses. Vandalism can include damage ranging from broken windows and graffiti to much more extensive damage. Theft of copper wiring and fixtures is one common source of damage to vacant buildings and can be quite extensive. According to a 2012 report issued by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), metal theft has steadily increased across the nation beginning in August 2009, driven by rising prices for base metals especially copper. According to this report, over 25,000 insurance claims were filed between 2009 and 2012 as a result of metal theft. In addition to the cost of the stolen copper itself, this type of theft often results in much larger losses as a result of property damage caused when thieves extract copper pipes and wiring from behind walls. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that metal theft costs U.S. businesses around $1 billion a year. 2 Owners of vacant properties can take steps to help minimize their risk of incurring a loss caused by vandalism and theft 1 : 1 Protecting your vacant building: How to reduce the risks and become more aware of coverage pitfalls. Zurich American Insurance Corporation. (2012) 2 Kudla, Joe. (2012, March). Metal theft claims and questionable claims from January 1, 2009 to December 31, NICB. Advise your alarm company of the vacancy, create new codes and update contact information. Make sure security systems are in place and operational. Conduct frequent, regular walk-through tours of the vacant property at different times of the day to note any changes. Consider hiring a guard service. Notify local authorities and public sector emergency response organizations, including police and fire departments, that your building is unoccupied. Provide them with your contact information in case of an emergency. Ask the local police department to include your building in a night tour if you notice any vandalism or attempts at entry into the building. Vacant properties: Understanding the risks and the solutions 2

4 Secure all doors and accessible windows with deadbolt locks. Consider installing additional locks. Ensure proper lighting: Install exterior and interior motion or timed lighting to help prevent potential animal infestation and criminal activity. Maintain exterior and interior lighting. Make the property appear occupied; maintain the exterior by cutting grass, removing leaves or snow. Consider letting a non-profit organization occupy your property at no charge to maintain the property. Water damage Water damages cause billions of dollars of structural, operational, reputational and financial losses each year for commercial property owners. Vacant buildings are at particular risk for water damage, which can be caused by frozen pipes, heavy rain and other leaks. In vacant buildings that are not monitored, accumulating water may not be detected for some time, leading to extensive damage. For example: A window left open in a vacated tenant space caused a pipe to freeze just inside the exterior wall. Coupled with the heat shut-off during the vacancy, the pipe burst, and water leaked down four floors. This inspection oversight resulted in a $100,000 loss. Certain types of buildings are more vulnerable to water damage. Typically, buildings that are 20 years of age or older are likely to be at higher risk as are buildings constructed using new building materials other than concrete and steel. Properties located in areas of the country where intense seasonal storms, hurricanes or earthquakes occur are at a higher risk for water leaks and infrastructure failures, such as burst pipes. Finally, any building where regular maintenance of the roof, windows, plumbing and HVAC is deferred faces potential losses in structural integrity and water damage. Water entering a building typically comes from one of three sources rain water, gray water or facility systems water each with its own specific types of exposures. Of course, extreme weather and flooding can lead to property damage, but rain water can also cause damage if roof rain water services are not properly maintained. This can lead to blockages and overflows, which can often escape into the building. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, gray water is defined as, household wastewater (as from a sink or bath) that does not contain serious contaminants (as from toilets or diapers). Leaks of gray water from appliances and plumbing may be intermittent and often go undetected, allowing water to build up over time. On the other hand, a leak from pressurized systems such as sprinkler piping can give rise to rapid loss of large volumes of gray water. 3 Water damage prevention: Avoid costly water damage claims with a water damage mitigation program, Zurich Services Corporation, (2013) Other facility systems such as plant rooms, boiler rooms and HVAC installations involve large volumes of water so leaks in these systems can lead to extensive damage on multiple floors of a building. Vacant properties are particularly prone to freezing and subsequent bursting of pipes leading to large-scale water damage. 3 Vacant properties: Understanding the risks and the solutions 3

5 Owners of vacant properties can take steps to help minimize their risk of incurring a water damage loss 1 : Ensure sump pumps are working properly. Check and keep gutters clean. Insulate pipes. Maintain alarm systems in the event of pipe breakage. Install low temperature alarms connected to a listed central station in a building where the water remains on to help prevent damage from cold or freezing temperatures. Adjust the thermostat, where appropriate: Set central heating to 55 degrees to keep the pipes from freezing. Adjust the air conditioning to 85 degrees to help protect against humidity and mold. Plan for rain, high winds and storm. Keep any exterior furniture inside and close all doors, windows and vents. If appropriate, plan for catastrophic events, such as a hurricane. Fire In 2012, U.S. municipal fire departments responded to an estimated 480,500 structure fires. These fires killed 2,470 civilians (non-firefighters) and caused 14,700 reported civilian injuries. Direct property damage was estimated at $9.8 billion dollars. Although nonresidential structure fires accounted for only 7% of all reported fires, these incidents caused 21% of the direct property damage. 4 Vacant buildings, particularly unsecured properties, are more likely than occupied structures to be affected by intentionally set fires. Accidental fires caused by exposure to a fire in another building, malfunctioning heating or electrical equipment, or unauthorized people using a heat source or smoking in the building can be just as devastating. Buildings lacking automatic fire extinguishing equipment are particularly at risk for severe damage. 1 Protecting your vacant building: How to reduce the risks and become more aware of coverage pitfalls. Zurich American Insurance Corporation. (2012) 4 Trends and Patterns of U.S. Fire Losses in Fire Analysis and Research Division, NFPA%20reports/Overall%20Fire%20 Statistics/ostrends.pdf Owners of vacant properties can take steps to help minimize their risk of incurring a loss caused by fire 1 : Check sprinkler control valves, fire extinguishers and other fire protection equipment weekly. Test all fire protection system alarms quarterly to ensure they are still working. Operate boilers to provide heat to prevent freezing of fire protection equipment (water supply tanks, sprinklers, sprinkler piping, etc.). Remove any debris or hazardous materials, including unnecessary combustibles, pollutants or chemicals, to eliminate the potential for fire, leaks or contamination. Secure flammable liquid tanks by removing them or filling them with sand or concrete. Notify local authorities and public sector emergency response organizations, including police and fire departments, that the building is unoccupied. Provide them with contact information in case of an emergency. Vacant Properties: Understanding the Risks and the Solutions 4

6 About the E&S Property Program The E&S Property Program Program Administrator underwrites property insurance for a wide range of occupancies including hard-to-place risks. By working closely with its carriers, the Program Administrator is able to provide creative approaches, as well as the flexibility to underwrite comprehensive coverage for a broad spectrum of classes. The company partners with clients to solve their needs in a timely manner. For more information submit a request for contact to the Program Administrator through ZProgramsMatch.com E&S Property Program highlights: Experienced E&S Property underwriting staff No TIV restrictions Zurich s Nationwide Property Claims team Minimum premium $10,000 Coverage across the United States and its possessions; excluding U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam ISO property coverage, forms and extensions that may include Equipment Breakdown Up to $25 million primary and $25 million excess in-house authority with the ability to obtain higher limits with approval Earthquake and flood sublimits available in non-critical CAT zones Excluding Named Storm in Tier I and II coastal counties from VA to TX Commercial classes within our appetite include, but are not limited to, the following: Lessors risk Hotels and motels Vacant buildings Retail operations Shopping malls Strip malls Restaurants Assisted living Medical offices Churches Light industrial Warehousing operations Distributors Agricultural business The above classes in Florida excluding wind/hail. 5 SNL, Insurance Statutory Market Share Report for Rating as of December, A.M. Best s Ratings are under continuous review and subject to change and/or affirmation. For the latest Best s Ratings and Best s Company Reports (which include Best s Ratings), visit the A.M. Best website at The rating represents the overall financial status of the individual member companies of Zurich in North America, including Zurich American Insurance Company, and is not a recommendation of the specific policy provisions, rates or practices of each issuing insurance company. Submission requirements Accord Property application with Statement of Values if multiple locations. Minimum three years of hard copy loss runs. Carrier Coverage underwritten by Zurich, the 4th largest property-casualty carrier in North America 5 with an A.M. Best rating of A+ (stable) 6. Zurich has provided property and casualty insurance to businesses in North America for more than 100 years. Vacant Properties: Understanding the Risks and the Solutions 5

7 A A (04/14) Insurance coverages are underwritten by individual member companies of Zurich in North America, including Zurich American Insurance Company. Certain coverages are not available in all states. Some coverages may be written on a nonadmitted basis through licensed surplus lines brokers. Zurich 1400 American Lane, Schaumburg, Illinois Zurich American Insurance Corporation

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