With fly-tipping on the rise, Douglas Barnett, director of mid-market and customer risk management at AXA Insurance, explains how managing agents can prevent or deal with intrusions on commercial properties – and how brokers can help.
Rubbish on a disused industrial site is hardly your usual summer postcard. And yet, the sunny months in the UK are the high season for fly-tipping. Intruders are targeting out-of-town estates and disposing of waste in an unsafe way, either in the open or in vacant warehouses they’ve broken into. For the owners of commercial real estate, losses can easily range in the tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Brokers can help their property clients by giving them sound risk management advice and, when an intrusion happens, contacting the insurer quickly to enable deployment of specialist services.
Of course, it is best to avoid an intrusion in the first place. Physical measures need to be in place to protect a vacant site. High palisade fencing should run around the perimeter. The entrance gates should be sturdy and, placed across them, 4.5t concrete blocks should stop unauthorised vehicles from gaining access – or 2.5t blocks could do the job if they are bolted together, as could ram-raid posts if they have a concrete base of at least 50cm.
Video surveillance is recommended: CCTV cameras and intruder alarms can work as a deterrent – but they also can be ignored by intruders. So that isn’t enough. These detection systems need to be monitored. And security guards need to be on the ground, carrying out regular patrols.
They can’t come from any random firm. Managing agents need to hire a security firm that trains staff adequately and makes sure they have the right skills, including in conflict resolution. The sector is rife with subcontracting, sometimes with multiple layers of it. That should be avoided to retain better control on the quality of services being provided.
One of our clients recently had a bad experience with a deficient security firm. The vacant industrial compound was staffed by a lone guard, with a limping dog. Rostered on a single 24-hour shift, he didn’t know how to react when 15 vehicles gained entry to the site. Luckily, the broker, alerted by the managing agent, contacted us, allowing us to dispatch a properly trained security team. As two guards trained in conflict resolution and dog handling started patrolling the premises, the intruders left the next morning.
The cost of hiring a reputable security firm might be higher to start with, but it is much cheaper than having to pay for the consequences of fly-tipping.
That type of waste removal is expensive as it is often contaminated, potentially with clinical materials. Besides, it takes time, which will cause delays in marketing and letting the property again. A lengthy occupation may also damage the reputation of the site and reduce its value. That is if the site itself hasn’t been damaged or destroyed: the accumulation of waste increases the fire risk and, when unknown materials come into the mix, it even fuels the risk of explosion.
What is more, fly-tipping is a criminal offence. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 states that a person shall “not knowingly permit controlled waste to be deposited in or on any land unless a waste management licence authorising the deposit is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence.”
Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, fly-tipping is punishable by a fine
of up to £50,000 or 12-months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court.
As an insurer, we have the risk management expertise to avoid and mitigate the risks associated with fly-tipping and we have trusted partnerships with specialist security providers. A lot of commercial property cover is placed through brokers, so we hope they will help us share that advice and, if an incident happens, they will let us know straight away.