For Business

UPVC door lock horror – Why you should change your Euros NOW.

By Emma Drew

August 26, 2015

eurolock

Opinion article – Simon Britton

Since moving into suburbia recently, and acquiring a house with uPVC doors and windows, I’ve become much more security aware. One of the first things I wanted to do was replace the locks in the doors – after all, someone else has had keys to this house for years and I’d rather not risk there being any lost or copied versions of those keys floating round. Some may call that inner-city paranoia, but these days I think it’s just sensible.

I’d heard that “Euro locks” were easy to replace, so I did some research to see how true that was, and what the current ‘good practice’ is for such locks. Frankly, I was horrified by the sheer amount of articles I found discussing older-style euro locks and just how easy it was to break into a house with very simple tools. Thankfully, there was an almost equal amount of articles showing you how easy it is to replace these locks yourself.

The main problems with older, non-BS-kitemarked locks fall under the categories of snapping, bumping, and picking. I’ll save snapping until last, as it’s the most horrifying.

Bumping consists of using a specially-cut ‘blank’ key. Using some pressure and gentle taps on the key, it is possible to rearrange the little pins inside older locks in such a way that they allow the cylinder to turn and unlock the door. The method is tricky, but with practice only takes a few minutes – especially for someone with a little lock-picking experience.

Which brings me to picking: As with any cylinder-type lock, euro locks are vulnerable at some level to picking – using specialised tools to manipulate the pins inside the lock. A skilled lock-picker can use special tools and apply pressure to the lock to align the pins in a similar way to the little bumps on your key. Once aligned, the lock turns easily as if the correct key had been inserted. Again, this takes practice but a skilled burglar could be opening a door within minutes.

As for snapping, this was the most worrying aspect of older euro locks. I watched a YouTube video in fascinated horror as a ‘reformed burglar’ opened a uPVC front door in something less than 30 seconds. Without going into too much technical detail, it is entirely possible to ‘break’ the euro lock in half with either a special tool or a pair of mole-grips (those heavy-duty self-gripping pliers beloved of car mechanics). Both halves of the lock can then be pulled and pushed out of the door frame, and the rotating cylinder manipulated with a bent screwdriver. That it happened so fast was the most worrying aspect: I went straight on the internet, and had a full set of British Standard kitemarked anti-everything locks couriered to me next day. If your current euro-locks don’t carry the kitemark, then I suggest you do the same.

Look out for branded locks with a good reputation from the likes of UAP, Avocet, Yale or Squire (several others are available in addition) and make sure they carry the BS kitemark. These locks are generally listed as anti-snap, anti-bump, anti-pick and usually anti-drill.

The safer, newer locks generally have a deliberately weakened casing, so that if an attempt is made to ‘snap’ the lock, the casing sacrifices itself and comes off leaving the locking mechanism intact. This frustrates the efforts of the burglar and makes it a lot more difficult to gain entry – but the key-holder can still unlock the door.

Several lock manufacturers have also developed unusual types of cylinder keys, making picking much harder, and the ability to use bumping on higher quality locks is greatly reduced as well. Some insurers will even take ‘star rated’ locks into consideration for home contents policies, but business users should not ignore their euro locks either: Fitting top-end kitemarked three-star locks is an essential part of some business insurance requirements, especially in older retail premises – check with your broker today.

With prices starting at around £12 per lock for a basic anti-snap euro cylinder, it would seem insane NOT to upgrade any older locks, especially as the hard work consists of removing and replacing a single screw. Don’t forget to measure up before you order – a simple web search will yield plenty of help and advice – and a few YouTube horror stories!

PS: As a footnote, I recently discussed the above advice with one of my neighbours and discovered they had fitted euro locks with a ‘thumb turn’ on the interior side – so they don’t have to use the key to lock/unlock the door once inside. However, they had fitted a thumb turn lock on their front door. Next to their letterbox. Hopefully you can see the folly here – a burglar would simply have to reach through their letterbox, and unlock their door by turning the knob on the inside. I hope they listened to my advice, for their sake, and the sake of their expensive sports car sitting on the drive.

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The risks of modern methods of construction

By Emma Drew

July 29, 2014

The risks of modern methods of construction

The term Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) refers to construction methods and techniques which aim to minimise the amount of time to construct a building on site using a combination of new and traditional construction methods.

As technology continues to rapidly progress, so too do the building techniques available within the construction industry. There are now as many non-traditional methods of construction used in the UK, than almost any other country, with the trend likely to continue.

The benefits of MMC such as faster construction times on site, which means construction workers spend less time on site with fewer workers needed overall are widely reported. Benefits such as these are positive for the construction industry, however, less  documented, are the potential risks associated with these construction methods.

Potential risks could include:

  • The use of combustible lightweight materials such as wood, polystyrene and recycled materials have the potential for a greater degree of fire spread, leading to an increase in claims costs
  • Building modular constructions off site such as pods can cause small gaps to form leading to leakages and further damage. In addition, removing pods to be repaired can often be a lengthy and expensive process.
  • The long term ability of some of the materials used in MMC is untested, therefore it is worth considering the effects flooding and other adverse weather conditions may have on these type of constructions.
  • The ability to obtain replacement parts in the future may prove difficult; this is especially if a manufacturer goes out of business.

For these reasons, as a contractor or developer you are advised to review your insurance policies before undertaking any major MMC work.

*Source: Zurich
 
 

How can Perkins Slade help?

 

Perkins Slade understands the current and emerging challenges faced by the real estate sector. We know that proactive risk identification and management are key attributes insurers look for; we can conduct an In-depth Audit of your organisation’s exposures and use the findings to build a bespoke insurance and risk management programme to protect your business.

If you would like more information, please contact your usual Perkins Slade representative. Alternatively you can contact:

Bert Ramos
Associate Director
T: 0121 698 8145
E: b.ramos@perkins-slade.com

 

 
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Reducing The Risks To Unoccupied Commercial Properties

By Emma Drew

June 4, 2014

Reducing The Risks To Unoccupied Commercial Properties

As an owner of a commercial property are you aware that most standard insurance policies will not provide cover for buildings which are left empty or unoccupied for more than thirty days.

The economic downturn of 2008 had a major impact upon the number of businesses ceasing trading and consequently the number of commercial properties lying vacant on our high streets as a result has also increased

With vacancy rates now at their lowest for four years, the picture is certainly showing signs of improvement, however there are still as many as 50,000 lying empty. When a commercial property is left unoccupied it becomes exposed to all sorts of potential risks; fire, theft and damage, as well as the increase in liability issues are all important factors which owners should take in to consideration.

Follow these simple measures to help protect your property 

Premises management

• Carry out weekly documented inspections as a means to identify potential problems and to establish procedures to remedy any situations that may arise

• Ensure access to keys are strictly controlled

• To maintain its appearance and to deter would be thieves, remove fly posters and graffiti on a regular basis. In addition, secure letterboxes and remove accumulated mail.

• Ensure that the building is secured where necessary; install and maintain perimeter fencing, locks for all external doors, security lights and protect vulnerable windows by boarding them with exterior grade plywood.

• Isolate gas and electric supplies unless they are essential to maintain heating or fire and security protection systems and equipment

 • Communicate to relevant organisations that the building is unoccupied. This includes utility companies, police and fire service.

Health & Safety 

Unoccupied buildings can present a vast scope of potential risks and hazards; criminal damage, arson, theft and squatters are all high risk threats when a building is left for long lengths of time.

• A risk assessment should be completed covering fire, theft and general safety. A key element of the assessment should be to focus upon issues such as, location of premises, local crime rate and perimeter security.

• Ensure that an appropriate maintenance programme is established. This should include measures such as appointing a responsible person to manage the property while it remains unoccupied.

Insurance

As an owner of a property you should contact your insurer to when it becomes vacant. Failure to do so can invalidate or reduce the cover of your policy,  as vacant properties generally require additional cover.

We can help

If you would like to discuss your business insurance and/or risk management needs in more detail, please contact your usual Perkins Slade representative, alternatively  telephone 0121 698 8145 or email b.ramos@perkins-slade.com

Sources: DTZ & RiskStop

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Christmas Time, Vacant Properties and Crime!

By Editor, Perkins Slade

December 18, 2013

Christmas Time, Vacant Properties and Crime!

At all times, security and safety is important, but during the festive period it is even more important to ensure your commercial property doesn’t fall victim to crime.

 

The Vacant Property Specialists state 3 reasons to be extra cautious over Christmas:

1. Metal theft
Burglaries are estimated to increase by 13% during December alone. Vacant properties are especially at risk from metal theft as thieves target them steal an abundance of copper piping, electric cables, generators, boilers and lead roofing. The pillaging of metals is one of the fastest growing UK crimes and estimated to be costing the country £770* million a year.

2. Arson and fire
At least 60% of all fires occur in vacant buildings**. As well as the financial risk, security staff and emergency workers called to deal with arson attacks in vacant buildings are also at risk.

3. Burst water pipes
Many property owners underestimate the catastrophic effect that water damage can have. Cold weather can trigger water systems to freeze and lead to burst pipes, causing significant damage resulting in a major clean-up bill costing thousands, sometimes millions of pounds (in the case of listed and heritage buildings).

Our advice to property owners and managers is to take the following steps to ensure your property is well protected over winter:

  • Undertake a comprehensive risk assessment to assess potential risks, such as fire hazards and public liability exposure as well as the exposure to damage from squatters/ criminals.
  • Isolate and shut down utility supplies. Clear the property making sure to remove any combustible material. Install a letter box seal to prevent arsonists or squatters setting fire to the property, a build up of mail is also a vital clue that a property is empty.
  • Ensure the perimeter of the property is secure and where required fit steel security to windows and doors. 
  • Instigate a minimum weekly inspection of the property both internally and externally – as required by most insurance providers.
  • Draining down the water system as soon as a property becomes vacant is a cost effective and preventative measure to eliminate water damage and ensure the property is covered by insurance.
  • Secure the property with a remotely monitored intruder alarm.

We can help

If you would like to discuss your business insurance and/or risk management needs in more detail, please contact your usual Perkins Slade representative, alternatively  telephone 0121 698 8145 or email b.ramos@perkins-slade.com

 *Source: House of Commons – 11/07/2012
**Source: Insurance Protector Group

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The increase of under insured commercial properties

By Emma Drew

September 9, 2013

The increase of under insured commercial properties

Recent research carried out by the Building Cost Information Service, part of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that 80% of commercial properties are under insured.

If your building is insured for less than its full reinstatement cost, in a time of crisis, you could be putting yourself in danger of being exposed. In the event of extensive damage, you would only receive a percentage of the cost to repair the damage if your not adequately insured. A risk not worth taking.

The cost of rebuilding, or reinstating a property depends on variables, such as:

  • Construction
  • Style
  • Quality
  • Condition
  • Location
  • Building regulations
  • Cost of labour.

Since the financial crisis, and the correction in real estate prices, coupled with the lethargic nature of the economy, complacency amongst commercial real estate customers is a growing problem, and something that should be brought to light.

The introduction of new UK building regulations and the rigorous environmental laws are causing total rebuild costs to dramatically increase; therefore many factors need to be taken into account to ensure the sums insured are sufficient, so in a time of crisis, you are fully covered.

Zurich state, ‘this is because if there was a total loss, a property valuation needs to be on the basis that a property is reinstated ‘as built’ but with additional allowances for improvements that will be required by building regulations in force at the time of reinstatement and not at the time of construction, which may end up being a substantial sum insured’.

Contact Us

For more information on Commercial Real Estate Insurance email corporate@perkins-slade.com or call us 0121 698 8145

 

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Vacant properties: the rise in metal theft

By Emma Drew

August 30, 2013

Vacant properties: the rise in metal theft

Did you know, over 1,000 metal thefts occur each week from commercial properties in the UK? The commercial real estate sector provides a wealth of challenges, however managing vacant properties has always been a key issue. 

The Vacant Property Specialists (VPS) have warned that unoccupied properties are the most under threat, as the Home Office’s Crime against business survey proves metal theft accounts for 1 in 6 of all thefts across all sectors.

Mr Anderson, head of the Criminal Investigation Department stressed that:

“Unoccupied commercial premises are likely to bear the brunt of the estimated total £1 billion costs to repair the damage and replace stolen items from these crimes, and this report highlights the need for owners and landlords to strengthen their security and protection for their vacant properties.”

Headline data from the Home Office report:

  • 4,017 interviews were carried out, covering the manufacturing, wholesale and retail, transportation and storage, and accommodation and food sectors
  • Around 1 in 6 respondents reported metal or lead theft in most recent incident of burglary or theft
  • When asked how much metal theft had occurred during all crimes over the last 12 months:
    • 10% reported metal or lead theft across all the sectors
    • 67,000 such thefts have been experienced by these commercial sectors (2012)

By following these simple measures you can help to protect your unoccupied premises:

  • Notify your insurers
  • Isolate all utlities/services
  • Drain the water system
  • Permanently seal all letter boxes and other unprotected apertures
  • Remove waste from inside and outside the building
  • Secure premises using all devices
  • Use an alarm system
  • Conduct a thorough inspection of the building(s) at least every 7 days
  • Deal with any issues that arise immediately.

Additionally you may wish to consider:

  • Concrete blocks
  • Monitored CCTV
  • Security guarding.
Source: Zurich Real Estate Focus

For more information on Real Estate Insurance and to find out about the Commercial Insurance cover we provide email corporate@perkins-slade.com or call us 0121 698 8145

 

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