Protecting Vacant Real Estate Property

Protecting Vacant Real Estate Property

Protecting Vacant Real Estate Property

The insurance risks and liabilities associated with owning vacant real estate can be extensive, and to ensure you are adequately protected, it is important to know these risks. In addition to purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage, there are numerous preventive strategies for maintaining vacant properties to reduce risk and liability.

apartment and condo loss prevention

Potential Risks of Vacant Real Estate

There are a host of risks and concerns associated with owning vacant real estate. Vacant buildings are an obvious target for theft, trespassing and vandalism. For example, the rising cost of copper has given rise to an increase in the theft of copper pipes from vacant properties. In addition to any loss or property damage that may occur, keep in mind that the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.

In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage, and mold. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration shows that approximately 30,000 fires occur every year in vacant buildings, costing $900 million annually in direct property damage. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues; someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss.

In certain facilities, there may also be environmental hazards that the owner needs to consider. Facilities that are used to store chemicals or other pollutants should ensure that such materials are removed or securely stored—the owner may be held liable for any hazardous materials that contaminate groundwater or other nearby natural resources. Also, underground fuel tanks present serious challenges and thus should be frequently and carefully inspected by professionals.

Other Ways to Mitigate Risk for Vacant Real Estate

In addition to extending coverage, there are some simple steps that owners of vacant property can take to limit their risk and liability.

Prevent vandalism: Notify local authorities of vacated properties so they can watch for criminal behavior. Maintain an “occupied” appearance to the property—mow the lawn, have mail forwarded or picked up regularly and install light timers and/or a security system.

Limit liability: Make sure the property is free from significant hazards (e.g., broken railings or steps, broken windows) that could cause injuries to anyone on the property—this could include police officers, maintenance workers, firefighters or even trespassers.

Avoid damage: Performing regular maintenance on the property can decrease the odds of sustaining damage. Make sure the heating system and chimney are cleaned and inspected regularly. Have the plumbing system winterized to prevent frozen pipes. Periodically inspect roof, insulation, attic, basement, gutters and other areas of the property for any necessary repairs, mold, damage or other problems. Consider installing smoke detectors that are tied to a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will be notified in the case of an alarm. Remove all access material and combustibles from in and around the building.

vacant real estate

Insuring Residential Properties

Most insurance companies include a clause that the homeowner’s insurance will expire if a home is left vacant for more than 30 or 60 days. This leaves the property owner financially vulnerable for all previously noted risk. However, many insurance companies do offer vacant property insurance, also known as vacant building insurance or vacant dwelling insurance.

Unoccupied Commercial Building Insurance

Vacant commercial buildings are more difficult to insure because they present greater risks, including in It is important to disclose all relevant facts when seeking insurance, including the reason for the property’s vacancy and a schedule of any work to be done on the property.

Because of the increased risks and liability associated with a vacant property, these types of insurance tend to be costly—ranging from one and a half to five times the cost of a property insurance policy. It is important to look beyond the price and consider the suitability and comprehensiveness of the coverage being purchased.

For more information about vacant property insurance and other strategies to help protect your assets and mitigate loss, contact us today at 209-634-2929.

GDI Insurance

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more.

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business. Contact us today 1-209-634-2929 for your comprehensive habitational insurance quote!

Understanding Your Commercial Property Insurance Rating

Understanding Your Commercial Property Insurance Rating

Understanding Commercial Property Insurance Rating

Understanding the outside factors that impact your commercial property insurance can be complicated, particularly for those with little to no knowledge of what goes into the underwriting process. While the type of business you’re in, your location and the state of the insurance industry in general can all affect commercial property coverage pricing, there’s often more to it than that. Because commercial property insurance rating can be complex, it’s important to have an experienced insurance broker. GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. can help, call us today 209-634-2929.

Commercial Property Insurance

In fact, when it comes to underwriting and rating commercial property insurance, insurers examine four key characteristics of a building: its construction, occupancy, protection and exposure (COPE). Together, these factors can affect commercial property policy pricing—pricing that can fluctuate drastically following an Insurance Services Office (ISO) inspection. This is especially true if there’s a discrepancy between what’s on an insurance application versus what’s found during an ISO inspection.

This Coverage Insights examines each aspect of COPE and how it can affect an organization’s commercial property insurance rating and, subsequently, their insurance rates.

The Types of Commercial Property Insurance Rating

Before looking at the specific factors of COPE, it’s important to understand when it is used and how underwriters rate property in general. When rating property insurance, insurers will generally use one of two methods—class rating or specific rating:

  1. Class rating—For the class rating method, buildings with similar characteristics are assigned to the same class. Insurance rates for class rating buildings will often be an average of all those in a particular group, with some rates fluctuating based on positive or negative features of a specific structure. Typically, your building will be assigned a class rating if it has all of the following characteristics:
    1. It consists of 25,000 square feet or less
    1. It doesn’t contain a sprinkler system
    1. It is not fire-resistive
    1. It is not used for manufacturing
  2. Specific rating—In instances where a building doesn’t fall under the class rating method, a specific rating will be calculated based on individual characteristics of the structure itself. This is where COPE comes in. Specific ratings are used for more complex buildings and take into account unique features—features that are examined closely during an ISO inspection. Following the inspection, ISO or the insurer will calculate a specific rate.
Commercial Property Insurance

Construction of Property

With a general understanding of the two rating systems, we can now examine how a building’s characteristics under COPE can affect policy pricing.

The first and most basic element of a commercial property insurance rating is a building’s construction (i.e., the materials the building is made of). Based on an ISO-developed system, insurers categorize buildings into one of six classes. These classes not only take into account the building materials used in construction (e.g., wood and concrete), but the combustibility of those materials as well.

These classes—numbered in order of combustibility, with Class 1 being the most likely to burn—are as follows:

  1. Class 1 (Frame)—Buildings generally receive this classification if their exterior walls are made of wood or some other combustible material.
  2. Class 2 (Joisted Masonry)—Buildings in this classification typically have noncombustible exterior walls consisting of concrete block, stone, brick adobe or another masonry material. In addition, Class 2 buildings usually have combustible floors and roofs.
  3. Class 3 (Noncombustible)—Class 3 buildings will have exterior walls, floors and roofs made of and supported by noncombustible or slow-burning materials. This can include materials like metal, asbestos or gypsum. Often, Class 3 buildings are equipped with steel frames.
  4. Class 4 (Masonry Noncombustible)—Class 4 buildings will often have exterior walls made of brick, concrete block or another type of masonry. Unlike Class 2 buildings, the floor and roof are constructed of metal or another noncombustible material.
  5. Class 5 (Modified Fire-resistive)—The walls, floor and roof of Class 5 buildings will have a fire rating of at least two hours. Because these buildings are heavily fire resistant, Class 5 buildings generally have walls, roofs and floors made of solid masonry that are at least 4 inches thick.
  6. Class 6 (Fire Resistive)—Similar to Class 5 buildings, the walls, floor and roof of Class 6 buildings will have a fire rating of at least two hours. In addition, the walls, floor and roof will consist of reinforced concrete and will be 4 inches thick or more. What’s more, structural steel used in Class 6 buildings will be load bearing and have a fire rating of at least two hours.

Following an ISO inspection, your building may be assigned a specific class, which could substantially impact your rates.

commercial property insurance

Occupancy

The second factor in COPE that insurers look at is occupancy. Specifically, underwriters will examine how a particular building is used (e.g., for retailing, manufacturing or renting).

In addition, underwriters are interested in the contents of a building and how those contents impact combustibility. For example, if a building is used as a grain mill, it will likely contain dust that could ignite or explode. With this in mind, your commercial property insurance rates will vary depending on the type of work you perform in your building.

Protection

The third factor of COPE relates to protection and the methods used to safeguard a building from fire. When it comes to protection, insurers will take into account both public and private protection:

  • Public protection—In general, public protection is provided by local fire departments, and an ISO-developed system is used to rate the quality of that protection. Under this system, fire departments are assigned what’s called a Public Protection Class rating—numbered one to 10, with one being the best. Essentially, buildings located in communities with low Public Protection Class ratings will be charged a lower commercial property insurance rate. These ratings take into account:
    • The caliber of the fire department
    • The adequacy of the water supply
    • The effectiveness of the fire alarm and communication system
  • Private protection—Private protection refers to the policyholder’s fire protection methods. This can include things like fire doors, fire alarms, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems. Essentially, the more of these features your building has, the more likely your insurer will apply a credit to your insurance rate.

Exposure

The fourth and final factor of COPE refers to exposure. Exposure relates to external hazards that exist primarily due to a building’s location. This can include natural hazards (e.g., wind, hail and lightning) or man-made hazards from local infrastructure (e.g., highways) or the general public (e.g., high-crime areas).

The closer your building is to a natural or man-made hazard, the more likely you are to pay higher prices for commercial property insurance.

What This Means for Your Commercial Property

Commercial property insurance rates are anything but static, and a variety of outside factors can influence pricing. Despite this, you aren’t alone when it comes to managing your risks and gaining insight into your unique policies. We’re here to help.

Contact GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. today to learn more and speak to a qualified insurance broker.

GDI Insurance Agency, Inc.

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more.

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business. Contact us today 1-209-634-2929 for your comprehensive commercial property insurance quote!