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Vacant Property Inspections (VPIs) in the time of Covid

As a result of the national lockdowns, offices have closed, retail properties are vacant and homeowners have deserted their city properties. Consequently, restaurants have closed their doors, retailers have moved online and the once busy city is empty, creating an unprecedented demand for VPIs.

The term VPI stands for Vacant Property Inspections and in the last year it has become necessary for a far broader range of properties than it did pre-COVID-19.

Many of you may not be familiar with the term VPI, or the practical benefits of a regular vacant property inspection, but it may well effect you. A VPI is critical to property insurance providers, property managers, retail property owners and managers, office managers, building supervisors and even homeowners.

When a property is left unoccupied it may suffer damage, be vandalised even become occupied by squatters, leading you to call on your insurance provider to help resolve the issue. Issues such as fire caused by arson, damp caused by a leaking pipe, burglary due to a weak lock or broken window, squatters or even theft of the contents of the building are worryingly common side-effects of leaving a property empty.

Unfortunately for many, in the event that you do not undertake a regular VPI, your insurance provider can reject any claim you make on the above issues, even if you feel it is covered by your agreement.

A large number of insurance providers expect a property to be inspected a minimum of once a week, checking for a range of issues and providing evidence that such an inspection has taken place. In some cases, without proof, insurance providers do not have to honour a repayment to the customer in the case of damage or theft.

Gallowglass Security’s Property team have seen an unprecedented rise in demand for VPIs. Pre-COVID-19, VPIs were ordinarily for properties that have just been sold or were pre-development. Typically, these properties were vacant for three months and generally considered low risk property. However, since March 2020, Gallowglass Security is now undertaking over 1000 vacant property inspections every month for private property owners through to large corporates.

Every client and every insurance provider has different demands as to how they want the empty property inspected and the VPI to take place. As a result, Gallowglass Security’s Property team provide clients with a tailored made experience based off our extensive knowledge, and the demands of the insurer’s contract.

We provide clients with a daily or weekly, fully digitalised, time-stamped report, featuring photography of all key areas of the building. Alongside this, we also provide our clients with bespoke services, whether this be forwarding mail, bleeding radiators, checking fridges or running the taps and ensuring that no pipes have frozen during these colder months and reducing chances of legionella. Clients have individual demands and our SIA licensed staff always look to accommodate these and ensure their inclusion in our reports.

For those that feel that this is not a concern, there are several horror stories that should act as a warning. One example of which is an empty warehouse that didn’t invest in a professional VPI service. It was reported to contain over 800 tonnes of rubbish, which had been illegally dumped there in 7 days. Due to a lack of reporting, this individual’s insurance provider was not obliged to pay-out and clear the mess left, leaving the owner with a bill over £100,000 to clear the rubbish from the vacant property. As you can imagine the financial cost of a regular VPI is significantly less, let alone the emotional cost.

For those who own a vacant property, whether this be an empty office, empty home or empty warehouse, Vacant Property Inspection Services should be top of your agenda. The effects of COVID are due to have an unprecedented effect on the economy, let alone the personal impacts. Don’t let damage to your vacant property become another burden on you.

Gallowglass Security Partners LLP’s support for rough sleepers during the Covid 19 crisis

The unfolding Covid 19 crisis highlighted the perilous predicament facing rough sleepers from the heightened risk of Covid transmission. This being on account of a myriad of factors, notably; that many have chronic physical and mental health problems which are often heightened by substance misuse, the inability to self isolate, the absence of basic hygiene facilities, together with a peripatetic lifestyle.

We believe that the leadership of the Greater London Authority (GLA) deserve immense credit for being relentless in raising this issue in the public and political consciousness at a very early stage of the emerging pandemic. All this as well as maintaining it in the public profile, and providing the political impetus and means to ensure that relief was provided in the form of accommodating this highly vulnerable group at various London hotels.

The admirable and highly committed St Mungo’s charity, were commissioned to provide rough sleeping services at the hotels, and throughout the pandemic been at the vanguard in providing a variety of essential and invaluable outreach support to those being temporarily housed in hotels across the capitol.

We were invited by the GLA to provide security support at hotels under their responsibility, an invitation that we had no hesitation in accepting despite the challenges and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. Ultimately we reacted as we always do, with alacrity, and deployed carefully selected and well briefed teams of guards at various locations, with the tasks of ensuring the safety of the residents, outreach workers and hotel staff as well as enacting any and all special instructions received on site.

As the pandemic worsened, we were assigned to provide security regimes for more hotels under the aegis of the GLA; as well as expanding our involvement into the London Boroughs of Westminster, Havering, Waltham Forest and most recently, on behalf of the long standing and renowned homeless charity Crisis.

For Gallowglass this assignment represented a paradigm shift from the range of services we are accustomed to providing, not least because of the absence of any formal guidance on security provision at the front line amongst a demographic profile of persons at a high risk of Covid transmission.

Undaunted though, our guard force was carefully selected on the grounds of their skillset and aptitude for this work, and were comprehensively briefed and rapidly deployed. Despite national shortages of PPE at the time of initial deployment, we were able to procure it, and equip all guards with it. Simultaneously all sites were rigoursly and critically risk assessed so establish safe systems of work for them.

Drawing on advice and subsequent updates from bodies such as Public Health England and the NHS, our H&S Manager assimilated the scientific advice and then distilled and adapted it in the form of a series of highly unique security relevant training syllabus’s. These Covid specific training modules have been, and continue to be updated and delivered on site on a one to one basis in the form of toolbox training.

We believe that this highly considered approach has been instrumental in building awareness and understanding of the very specific challenges posed, and has  ultimately cultivated the necessary skill sets and understanding that has contributed to our guards excelling in such a unique environment.

As with all, it is our hope that oncoming vaccines mark the beginning of the end of this pandemic. Until vaccines are clearly entrenched throughout the population and their efficacy thereby established, rough sleepers will continue to require the support that local government provides along with dedicated and skilful charities. We remain on hand to assist whenever and wherever required, especially over the Christmas period.

Managing Partner Giles Turnbull says.

“This is and remains a remarkable project, and one that we regard ourselves as privileged to be involved in on account of its inestimable social value. It’s successful delivery is a result of a highly collegiate effort, where our staff have been encouraged to draw on their intelligence, accumulated knowledge and experience, and apply their initiative for the benefit and success of this project .

The final word must go to the guards on the ground who have shown great professionalism selflessness, determination and effectiveness in delivering our security services. There are many who have distinguished themselves and I thank them all. Particular commendations though must go to Adedotun Ajao, Mohammed Ismail, Grzegorz Grabowicki, Amir Khattab, Ashley Campbell and Yuri Asenov all of whom have been particularly outstanding.”

Enforcement – The Gallowglass Approach

The frustration that has been continually expressed to us repeatedly over the years by property and landowners and their agents, is the seemingly labyrinthine and highly costly process of recovering land and property and restoring them to their lawful owners.

Recovering land and property does involve many parties, namely Enforcement Agents, Solicitors, the Courts, Security, Locksmiths and even the Police; aligning their availability and efforts to secure an expeditious and successful outcome. If one party in this process not ready to proceed, delay and unnecessary cost can arise.

Gallowglass has acquired extensive experience and inestimable skill in supporting Enforcement Agents in the physical recovery of property and land together with post recovery manned guarding, and in many instances, these have been very large scale and have attracted intense media interest.

Given the delay and uncertain cost generated by the traditional model of recovery, Gallowglass has studiously evolved a fresh vehicle of service delivery designed to expedite the process in a transparent and cost effective way.

We have secured the appropriate authority that allows us to internally transfer a County Court Possession order to a High Court Writ thereby avoiding the delay commonly associated with County Court Enforcement, a problem that has been exacerbated by the Covid19 pandemic.

Currently Gallowglass has six fully SIA licensed guards fully trained as Enforcement Agents and a large pool of highly able and experienced SIA licensed guards to support them in the recovery and post recovery phases of the enforcement process. All this together with an able and trusted network of Enforcement Agents throughout the UK.

We have also teamed up with lawyers and other ancillary partners and negotiated with them transparent fixed fee arrangements so that we can provide precise cost projections at the outset. All cost savings generated are passed on to our clients and we don’t charge an uplift on any of their services.

We are geared to rapid reaction and operate 24/7. This means that whenever and wherever in England and Wales a High Court Writ of Possession is handed down we will enforce it immediately.

If you require our assistance or would like to talk to us on a no obligation basis, then please don’t hesitate to contact either Morgan Sheldon, George Oliver or Vlad Stefanov on 020 7326 7840 or email at enforcement@galsec.co.uk

Security

Nick Kostov appointed partner as of 01 November 2020

We are extremely pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Nick Kostov as a Partner at Gallowglass, and to welcome him as our new Head of Operations. As with many at Gallowglass, Nicks journey towards Partnership has been a fascinating one. Nick graduated as a Primary School Teacher from Bulgaria’s Plovdiv University in Primary School Pedagogy and Foreign Languages, and is also fully licensed to teach at Primary level in England and Wales.

The early signs of his leadership ability, initiative and calmness under pressure were vividly illustrated when undertaking national service in the Bulgarian Air Force, when he single handedly played a critical role in averting an aeronautical disaster. A MIG 23, piloted by a senior Bulgarian General, was in distress and attempting to land at his base. Following a catastrophic failure of communications in air traffic control, he improvised and established alternative means of communications, and from there was able to guide the pilot down to a safe landing.

Since joining Gallowglass in 2008 his leadership ability, particularly in event security, was immediately apparent, and his rise through the security ranks was meteoric. He was the first, and to date, the only guard at Gallowglass ever to secure the accolade of primus inter pares. This qualifies him to undertake all security leadership roles regardless of size and complexity. In this capacity he has continually distinguished himself as an outstanding security team leader at high profile events in London, and at landmark event venues such as the Saatchi Gallery, Kew, the Roundhouse and the corporate and governmental orientated QEII Conference centre.

His leadership style is characterised by his natural authority, that is calm and unflustered and with no small measure of charisma as well. This has always engendered immediate confidence amongst event production professionals in both Nick and his team, and amongst the security team itself. Owing to Nick’s immense and steadfast contribution to Gallowglass’s growth in both a security leader and managerial capacity, he made an unanswerable case for elevation to Partnership, and one that is richly deserved. Away from work Nick delights in family life with his wife and young daughter. He is a connoisseur of Scotch Whiskey and a very keen student of the ferocious martial art, Krav Maga.

Giles Turnbull, the Managing Partner of Gallowglass Security Partners LLP, adds:

” I place a great premium on the timeless concept of leadership and of its value to our organisation, together with a desire to encourage and empower all our valued staff to perform to the absolute limits of their ability and beyond. With this in mind it always gives me immense satisfaction to observe members of our team exhibit these qualities and grasp the opportunities afforded to them to progress through our organisation.

Nick has shown tremendous leadership at all levels and has made an immense contribution to our progress as an organisation, and both I and my fellow Partners are delighted to welcome him to the Partnership. When I reflect on the composition of the Partners, I note that over half started their careers with us as security guards. This confirms that Gallowglass is a meritocracy, where hard work and ability will always secure its reward, and rightly so.”