Photographs of unoccupied spaces are becoming our new norm. If your business is no longer operating from owner-occupied premises or you are a landlord where the tenant has ceased to occupy the building, remember to liaise with your insurance broker or your insurer. An insurer sees a vacant building to be at greater risk and exclusions to the policy are likely to mean that you will have no insurance cover for standard risks when the building has been unoccupied for more than a certain period of time (usually 30 or 60 continuous days).
What is meant by “unoccupied” can be sometimes unclear and the Courts have been known to say that this is a matter of “fact and degree” which must be determined when examining the facts in the context of a particular premises since different premises have different patterns of occupancy. In the COVID-19 context, therefore, is attending the premises once every couple of days to collect mail sufficient or does occupation require significantly more? Cases suggest that this will not be sufficient and whilst continuous physical presence during business hours is not necessary, occupation does involve an element of control over the premises so as, for example, to be in a position to prevent the intrusion of strangers. Overall, therefore, this is a reminder to check your insurance policy and make sure the premises remain insured. Consider what steps you can take to avoid an increase in premiums.
Mullane and Lindsay is continuing to work and provide clients with solutions through these uncertain times.