Metal theft and your empty property

Posted: 13th Oct 2016

Metal theft costs the UK economy the equivalent of more than 64,000 Ford Fiestas every year, says a guide published by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA). The guide explains that metal worth more than £770 million is stolen, both for its intrinsic value and to be smelted down for the manufacture of new products. It involves a supply train of many different players.

The relative accessibility of metals such as copper and lead used in buildings and other constructions, together with difficulties faced by the police in tracing and recovering stolen metal, means that insurers are paying out more than £1 million every week to victims of this particular crime, says the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

And the more insurers have to pay out, of course, the more expensive are the premiums that have to be paid by owners for the protection of their property.

The problem

The risk of metal theft – from any building, whether commercial or residential – is at its height when a building is left vacant and unoccupied.

An assortment of different metals. From lead to copper, iron to steel and aluminium then presents fairly easy pickings to a professional organised criminal gang or opportunistic thief.

It is surprising quite what a wide range of metals may be found – electrical cables, gutters, flashings, central heating and water pipework, radiators, water cylinders and kitchen and other domestic appliances. The almost endless opportunities make the theft of metals used in construction as one of the fastest growing crimes both in the UK and worldwide.


Property insurance naturally has a part to play in protecting property owners against the risks of metal theft. As already noted, however, the more insurers have to pay out to meet claims, the higher the premiums that need to be paid generally by all property owners.

Those property owners who are subject to repeated incidents of metal theft might be hit still further as individual insurers re-assess the risks and propose much higher premiums in certain cases, lower the scope and extent of cover provided or increase the amount that may need to be paid in excess on any further claim.

Yet many owners of residential and commercial property might be leaving their buildings and the contents with little or no insurance cover when the property is left vacant and unoccupied for some reason – just the time when the property is at its most vulnerable to metal theft.

This is because of the policies typically adopted by insurance companies when a building is left empty for more than 30 or 45 days or so – the particular length of time varying from one insurer to another. Recognising that the empty property is especially vulnerable to increased risks of many different causes of loss or damage, insurers therefore restrict – or even lift altogether – the cover otherwise provided when the property is in constant use and occupation.

Unoccupied property insurance

To address your natural worries and concerns about all the risks of loss or damage when your property is left empty, here at Cover4LetProperty we have developed an expertise for arranging specialist unoccupied property insurance.

This is the cover that steps in when the existing cover provided by your main building and contents insurance inevitably reduces – or lapses altogether – whenever it is left empty and unoccupied for longer than a month or two.

It is available for any type of property, whether residential, buy to let or commercial and an immediate quote for competitively priced cover may be requested online.

It covers just what you might expect and hope it to cover – by providing whatever level of protection you choose as a standalone alternative or substitute when the property you own needs to be left empty. It may provide relatively basic cover – if the property has little of value within it, for example – or it may provide as comprehensive a degree of protection as the property insurance that normally protects it when it is in continuous occupation.

Unoccupied property insurance is also very flexible. If you know that your property is going to be unoccupied for only six months or so, for example, it is possible to arrange cover just for that period, rather than for the full 12 months of the year. On the other hand, if the vacancy extends beyond the interval you originally anticipated, unoccupied property insurance is typically flexible enough for you to extend the cover for as long as you need.

With the existing threats posed to any building that is left empty and unoccupied, added to the apparently rising incidence of metal theft, you might consider specialist unoccupied property insurance to be essential.