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How the wind doth blow

Hoarding falls from William Hill shop

Whilst the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo has long since blown over, Prop-Search would like to remind building owners and occupiers that adverse weather conditions - particularly during the winter months - can cause damage to a property’s fabric and more ominously, injury to members of the public.

Over the past few years a number of high profile cases of falling debris have headlined in the media - such as the William Hill hoarding case in Camden, the Euronics sign in Penarth and masonry from the Co-op building in Derby.  Commercial property owners should be aware of the damage which can follow from poor weather conditions and decreased spending on maintenance. 

Chris Billson, a Director at Prop-Search, says: “With the prolonged recession, there has been the temptation for property owners and tenants to cut back on maintenance costs by not carrying our routine repairs and commissioning full surveys as regularly as they could be.”

“Although in the short-term avoiding the upkeep of a building can reduce costs, the long-term impacts of poor weather conditions can become increasingly expensive.”

In recent years, there has been an increase in falling debris and although insurance policies are there to guard against liability claims, this typically only applies where a property is deemed to have been kept in a satisfactory condition.  If an insurance company can find a valid reason, such as negligence on the occupier’s behalf, then there is significant risk of invalid cover.  Worse still, occupiers could face legal action and potentially corporate manslaughter charges.

The risk of causing injury or damage is significantly higher for town centre offices and retail premises where there is a higher volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  If injury or damage occurs to a member of the public as a result of failing debris from the façade of a building, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will investigate.  If a building owner or occupier is found to be in material breach of health and safety law, not only will they face prosecution and a fine, they will also have to pay HSE its investigation costs which stand at £124 per hour.

Inspections through the life of a building, in order to avoid a potential loss, will take into account the following factors, age, condition and type of façade – all of which will determine how inspections should take place.  Long-term planning is key to avoiding risks, whilst extra vigilance should be taken during and after the winter months.

Chris Billson concludes: “Regular inspections and a planned maintenance strategy should be considered a priority.  Planned maintenance is always going to be more cost efficient than reactive repairs and also minimises the risk of added liability costs.”

Prop-Search is able to appraise your property and design a bespoke planned maintenance programme to help effectively manage the condition and minimise any potential liability.  Further information can be obtained by telephoning Tel 01933 223300 / 01604 492000.


22 December 2014