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24-05-2013

Metal theft on the rise

There’s been a lot in the press over the last few years about the theft of lead from church roofs. There have also been tales of train delays caused by stolen rails, and homes without power because of cable thefts. But this week my village hall was hit, with the removal of roofing from a one-storey extension. This is so frustrating as every brick, tile and piece of metal for the hall was the result of dedicated and time-consuming fundraising.

According to a recent report, though, the problem is far wider. Theft of metal from empty commercial properties in the UK has led to a 2500 per cent increase in this type of claim. But the main problem isn’t the loss of the metal itself: it’s the damage caused by thieves attempting to get access to it.

And this is something we’ve come up against at Morgan Clark. One recent example was a claim we handled for a landlord whose property was broken into. The thieves weren’t after conventional valuables: they wanted the copper piping under the floorboards and in the ceilings. The result was a heart-breaking mess, and the larger part of the claim was for ‘malicious damage’ caused by searching for the pipework rather than for the pipes themselves. It proved to be a complicated claim and you can read more about it here.

New legislation will help

But there is some good news on the horizon. A new Act – The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 – has now received Royal Assent and is likely to come into force in the autumn. This gives police powers to close unlicensed scrapyards, creates a register of dealers, and requires dealers to record the ID of all sellers of metal.

Let’s hope that, by making it more difficult to get rid of stolen items, this will have the desired result of making metal theft less attractive.

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