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National Vacant Property and People Protection 24/7

Fly Tipping – At its worst since 2010

Government Agency urge all property managers to be extra vigilant in a recent spate of illegal waste dumping across the UK

As you are no doubt aware, void properties can be vulnerable. Waste dumped in void properties or in gardens may leave property owners with the responsibility and costs of disposing of the waste, which can be considerable.

Our Solution

Orbis can protect & clear residential and commercial properties as well as development sites. We understand that vacant properties create a variety of issues and represent a significant cost to property managers, but with the right security, clean & clear services and regular monitoring in place we can minimise the risks.

Orbis is capable of handling large or small fly tipping sites for our clients. Orbis are fully accredited to handle and dispose of waste in an environmentally safe and efficient way.
We have developed long standing relationships with several leading social housing organisations. Working with our partners has allowed us to identify the following key benefits to you;

 

Property Maintenance and Specialised Cleaning Services

Planned, re-active and specialist maintenance keeps the property in a ready to let condition to help minimise your loss of income

Physical Security Measures

To deter intruders and minimise the likelihood of criminal activity at the property your loss of income.

Wireless Monitored Alarms

Operational without power supply to the property saving money and energy

24/7 Alarm Activation Response

Rapid response prevents further damage and loss of valuables while the re-instatement of security measures ensures continuity of insurance compliance

Online Reporting

Immediate updates of works carried out thanks to our straight line clear audit trail available online 24/7 giving you control and information wherever you are

 

Trends in the number of fly-tipping incidents in England, 2007/08 to 2015/16 (in thousands)

Number of large-scale tipping sites closed down in 2016, by region:

Orbis Exhibiting at CIH and PfH Live 2017

We are happy to announce that Orbis will be exhibiting at Europe’s largest housing event CIH and will also be at the co-located event PFH live both taking place in Manchester Central on the 27th – 29th June.

Housing 2017 is the only event within housing that brings together housing associations, local authorities, housebuilders, funders, contractors and advisors. The event is held over 3 days and hosts over:

  • 200 speakers
  • 300 exhibitors
  • 1,500 delegates
  • 8,000 visitors

The event is recognised for its great networking and learning opportunities for both exhibitors and visitors. Orbis, who has attended the event for many years, is excited to be returning to showcase all the great work we do for our customers. If you’re visiting, please feel free to drop in to have a nice chat with one of our helpful vacant property or lone worker experts.

Locations

  • CIH (D13) We will be right by the main entrance to welcome you to the event
  • PFH (P4) Rear of the hall next to the Fringe area

Our experts will be showcasing our vacant property solutions alongside our lone worker solutions. Orbis leads the market in providing a one-stop-solution for property managers looking to secure or re-let their vacant properties. For clients not wedded to one option but instead acting in the best interests of their customers, we recommend the best solution to reduce property risks, saving you both time and money.

If you haven’t registered yet, you can find registration details here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Orbis Exhibiting at Empty Homes Network Conference

People and businesses travel from all over the country for this conference to discuss updates regarding empty homes across the nation. Orbis are exhibiting at the conference on 24th May and look forward to speaking to other industry professional in this field.

Who’s it for?

Local authorities and their partners; housing associations, self-help housing groups and community organisations working in the field of empty homes; organisations involved in leasing properties to meet housing need; allied service providers such as lawyers, accountants, property guardians, builders, green energy firms; and more.

Who are the Empty Homes Network? (EHN)

EHN are a not-for-profit membership organisation. They are a national network with approximately 550 individual members and associates, launched with 80 members in 2001 as the National Association of Empty Property Practitioners.

Since then EHN have expanded our membership to include those working in regeneration companies, in self-help and community groups, and in private sector firms involved in helping bring empty homes back into use.

Their main role is to support all practitioners and organisations involved in addressing the issue of empty homes, helping them work as effectively as possible. They do this by facilitating the sharing of information and experience, by organising training events and conferences, by promoting best practice amongst delivery partners and by promoting sound policy at national level.

More about EHN here: Empty Homes Network

Who are Orbis?

Orbis leads the market in providing a one-stop-solution for property managers looking to secure or re-let their vacant properties. For clients not wedded to one option but instead acting in the best interests of their customers, we will recommend the best solution to reduce property risks in a cost-effective way.

Orbis delivers what it promises to clients, when we say we will. We are one company, with strong regional teams, making local decisions, understanding local markets and locations, hiring and developing local people, and doing all we can to improve local communities. With that as a foundation, we are building on our service offer to be the most trusted partner for our clients, making reoccupation and the best use of sites our shared goal. Want to find out more about how Orbis can tailor a solution to meet your needs, complete our contact us form here: Contact us today

New Accreditation: British Standard 8418 for Monitoring CCTV Alarm Systems

At Orbis we always strive to invest and lead in everything we do. We are happy to announce that our CAT II dedicated alarm receiving centre is now accredited to the British Standard BS8418.

The British Security Associations Industries (BSIA) have put together a helpful customer’s user guide for CCTV alarm monitoring systems, which can be viewed here:

A customer’s guide to BS 8418 detector-activated remotely monitored CCTV systems

Orbis leads the market in providing a one-stop-solution for property managers looking to secure or re-let their vacant properties. For clients not wedded to one option but instead acting in the best interests of their customers, we will recommend the best solution to reduce property risks in a cost-effective way.

Orbis delivers what it promises to clients, when we say we will. We are one company, with strong regional teams, making local decisions, understanding local markets and locations, hiring and developing local people, and doing all we can to improve local communities.

With that as a foundation, we are building on our service offer to be the most trusted partner for our clients, making reoccupation and the best use of sites our shared goal.

Want to find out more about how Orbis can tailor a solution to meet your needs, complete our contact us form here: Contact us today

Supporting Great Causes – Project South Africa 2017

Jeff Stunell of Mears Group
Project South Africa 2017

The Footprints Foundation which is run by Mears Chairman Bob Holt has been sending volunteers out to South Africa since 2008 to better the lives of the less fortunate.

The work is mainly centred on a number of orphanages located south of Johannesburg but in the last couple of years has expanded to carrying out works in a home for the mentally disabled and works in squatters camps.

Volunteers need to raise £2000 to enable them to participate, this covers their flights, food and accommodation and any leftover goes to the charity to help towards the works being undertaken.

You can see examples of the works carried out on the Foundation’s website under the heading South Africa: http://www.thefootprintsfoundation.co.uk

Jeff has volunteered for the last three years and has been involved in life changing experiences taking part in large building projects and witnessing the effects they have on such worthy recipients.

Jeff has been accepted to return again this year but it is becoming more and more difficult to raise the funds.

Orbis is behind Jeff and his mission and it would be amazing if other companies are able to make a donation (every penny counts) to help Jeff reach his goals.

If you are able to contribute, donations can be made on the following page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JeffStunellProjectSA2017

Getting away this Easter? Top tips to secure your property over the holidays

Approximately six million homes last year were left empty over the Easter weekend. It is therefore important to protect your property whilst you’re away enjoying your holiday. Orbis is the leading empty property protection specialist in the UK and has been protecting and securing empty properties for over 37 years.

To help avoid your property from being the target of theft or damage this weekend we thought we would share with you some top tips to help protect your property!

Top tips:

1/ Secure your property by locking all windows and doors sounds obvious, but it’s crucial to double check and then check again! Insurers may not take your claim seriously if the criminal was able to access your property without any struggle.

2/ Leave your curtains and blinds open, nothing tells potential opportunists that you are away like closed curtains and blinds during the day.

3/ Cancel or amend any milk or newspapers and other regular deliveries which may be left outside of your property.

4/ Befriend your neighbours, one that isn’t going away for the weekend! This helps give you an extra pair of eyes and ears over your property whilst you’re away, if you’re comfortable you could even borrow them a key to go in turn on your lights or water your potted plants. If you’re not the social type, you can sign up to a neighbourhood watch scheme if there is one in your area.

5/ Cut your grass and secure any furniture or other items in your garden, other than the obvious risk that someone will steal your belongings, freshly cut grass and a clean garden is a good deterrent.

6/ Don’t tell the world you’re going away, it’s always tempting to share the great news that you’re getting away to somewhere beautiful for the weekend, however social media can be like an advertising tool for criminals, though if you absolutely have to shout about it be sure to check your privacy setting to see who can see your posts.

7/ If you’re tech savvy, make use of apps! There are several apps on the market for smartphones and other devices that will turn on your lights and even activate your home’s alarm system if you have one.

Secure your vacant property or risk losing it: the threat of adverse possession

In the UK, while residential squatting was made illegal in 2012, ‘adverse possession’ is still a serious threat for property owners with long-term vacant dwellings. Premises managers need to carefully consider their vacant property solutions or risk the consequences.

Under UK law, if a trespasser can prove to have adverse possession of a property for more than ten years, they can apply to the Registrar to become the new registered owner. In some instances, this means that if someone breaks into a home and lives there for ten years, they get the house for free and the original owner is left with nothing.

In 2015, the Land Registry looked at around 700 adverse possession claims, and despite criticism from legal professionals, no plans have been announced to review the law. However, vacant property management experts such as Orbis can provide a professional security and management solution to protect empty buildings. Steel and polymer screens, access control systems, CCTV and alarms will prevent trespassers from gaining entry to a property, making it impossible for them to claim residence.

Some critics may argue that if a property is left vacant for ten years, it should be put to better use. However, in previous adverse possession cases, it has been suggested that occupiers falsely claimed to have taken up residence years earlier than they actually did. Additionally, these homes do not end up becoming available to the homeless, providing much-needed shelter, but often join a portfolio of properties claimed by the occupier.

Neighbours to one such case claim to have only seen the occupier at the home for about three years before he applied successfully to become the new owner. In this case, the Registrar was ordered to pay the occupier’s legal team £265,000, which was funded by the tax payer.

Is using vacant property to house the homeless really a win-win scenario?

Following the tragic deaths of two homeless people on the streets, the Milton Keynes (MK) People’s Assembly has taken action to campaign for the government to give the council powers and funds to tackle homelessness and the housing crisis. But their solution is not without its own pitfalls and dangers.

The MK People’s Assembly put in a Freedom of Information requested for a list of all long-term empty properties in the area, which is now available on their website. The list revealed almost 500 properties have been empty for more than 12 months, including properties the council is liable for.

Sean Perry, a People’s Assembly spokesperson said: “Despite the council publicly showing sympathy towards homeless people and a willingness to help, the answer to the homelessness crisis in Milton Keynes has been right under their noses.”

However, the answer to homelessness and vacant housing is not so clear cut warns Guy Other, CEO of Orbis: “While using empty property to house homeless people sounds like a win-win scenario, some of these buildings will be long term empty for a good reason.”

It may be that premises are empty as they are unsafe and need major redevelopment before people can live in them; in which case, it can be cheaper to build new housing. Void property needs to be maintained and secured to a high standard to ensure that they remain safe and fit for purpose, otherwise they reach a state that becomes too costly to invest in.

There is also a risk in inviting people to live temporarily in a void property. If someone is injured on the premises the owner can be liable, and even temporary residents may gain some rights in regards to the property.

Perry added: “Public concern, already at a high level due to the clear increase of visible homeless people, has turned towards outrage that such tragic loss of life is possible in one of the richest nations on the planet.” Evidently, new solutions are needed but we must be wary of rushing into what could be a potentially negative situation.

Fake workmen turn hotel into drug den

Terrace Guest House in Royal Terrace, which overlooks Adventure Island, Southend-on-Sea, is now believed to house up to 30 people who moved in after squatters allegedly posed as workmen and took over the building. Now neighbours are concerned that the vacant hotel has been turned into a drug den.

There are many stories of squatters taking over and moving large groups into vacant properties, such as our earlier hot topic on the Royal Mint, but it is an even greater concern when criminals start to operate their illegal activity from the premises. There is an increased risk of vandalism and arson, as well as potential damage to the owner’s reputation.

The squatters claim to have a legal right to dwell in the property as it’s a non-residential building and so isn’t protected by section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. This is why Orbis urges property owners and managers to consider the need for a professional vacant property management expert. Sites can be assessed and fitted with a bespoke solution to property against intruders and would be squatters.

Residents and reporters from the local paper have witnessed people waiting across the road from the hotel and signalling to an upper window, before being allowed into the property and then leaving hours later looking ‘bleary-eyed’. Unfortunately, the police won’t intervene as squatting is a civil matter and the leaseholders will have to seek an interim possession order.

However, this will take time and in the meantime the property could be getting damaged, the owner’s reputation may be suffering and repair costs will be mounting. Ideally, properties need to be professionally secured to prevent illegal entry from ever happening, thus avoiding the cost and stress caused.

Commercial property owners to pay service charges on empty buildings in Scotland

The Scottish Government has announced that empty commercial property owners will have to pay water service charges from the 1 April 2017. Previously, void building owners received a 100 per cent relief from payment, but this will now only apply for the first three months, at which point the owner will only receive a 10 per cent relief.

“The introduction of these charges is on the basis that vacant properties benefit from water and sewerage services and should therefore pay for them,” said Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. “It is expected to generate some £15m a year additional wholesale revenue for Scottish Water, allowing business charges to be frozen.”

This decision may discourage building owners from leaving any of their portfolio long term void. It seems to fit with efforts in Scotland to reduce vacant property, in line with work by organisations like the Scottish Empty Housing Partnership, who are targeting the residential vacant property sector.

With the increased efforts in Scotland to reduce void premises, we’re encouraging property owners and managers to consider the vacant property management solutions they have currently implemented, and to evaluate whether it is suitable and efficient to protect their long term investment. A professional service can offer a bespoke solution, using a range of methods such as steel or polymer doors and screens, CCTV, alarms, and access management systems, to ensure vacant properties are secured from vandalism, arson and squatting. This will make the renovation and return to use process much easier and cheaper for the building owner or manager.

However, the decision to reduce the water services relief has received some criticism and has even been seen as an attack on businesses. Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative finance spokesman, said: “We should be supporting firms at this tricky time, not penalising them further.” He also added that: “The Scottish government may say it is ‘generating’ the extra money, but in truth it’s simply another tax raid.”

Regardless of the political agenda behind the tax, managers and owners should ensure that they are protecting their investment by protecting the longevity of their building assets.