Bristol Council recently became the first local authority in the country to ban property guardianship, and have started phasing out the scheme in the city. As a result of this decision, around 150 residents run the risk of being left homeless, after relying on property guardianship schemes for housing. If they are unable to find accommodation as tenants in the private rental sector, they will have to apply to the council for housing.
However, the nearby North Somerset council recently started looking at the possibility of working with private landlords for its own property guardianship scheme, focused on tackling the homelessness problem in the area. While some may consider the scheme controversial, property guardianship does offer many positives to the community.
Property guardians are cheaper than static security guards
Landlords of unoccupied buildings may be worried about squatters or their property being broken into or vandalised, and consider hiring security guards to stop this happening. However, as vacant property security company Oaksure explain, property guardians “are contracted to live on-site at unoccupied premises for the purpose of security”. Having someone, or a group of people, living in a building massively reduces the chances of the building being targeted by vandals.
Having a permanent occupant in the building massively reduces the chances for anti-social behaviour taking place in the building, as well as reduces the risk of squatters taking control. While a property guardian is living in the building, it is in the guardian’s best interest to make sure the property is secure, and that the doors and windows are locked to protect them against burglars, which benefits the community.
Property guardians are only temporary residents of the property, and hold a licence to occupy the building for the purpose of security. This licence then expires once the security is no longer needed, and the property guardians then move to another vacant building that needs security.
Property guardians offer cheaper and flexible accommodation
Despite the recent drop in average rent prices, not everyone can afford the price of privately rented accommodation. Property guardians can save approximately 60 per cent on rent, and they have the opportunity to live in a wide range of different properties, including schools, stately homes, hospitals, and office spaces. The scheme offers people the chance for affordable housing, while guarding vacant buildings.
Licence agreements for property guardians are short-term, and can last roughly four weeks. However, in some cases, the licence can be renewed if the property is still vacant, meaning property guardians can live in a property for anything from a few weeks, to months, or even years. The flexibility allows guardians the opportunity to move around to new properties, while also letting landlords and property owners take back control of their property as and when they need to, with a short notice period. However, property guardian providers are obligated to relocate guardians at the end of their contract, ensuring that they have somewhere to stay and live.
Landlords can benefit from using property guardians, as it keeps their properties secure when they are not being used. Employing a security guard to watch over a property can be very expensive in the long run, with costs starting at around £9.50 per hour, in London. Also, having a security a guard outside a property is an indication to vandals and squatters that the building is not being used.
Property guardians can boost community spirit
In some cases, property guardians can find themselves living with other guardians in the same building. This can build a community within the building, and also introduces and builds relationships between people from all walks of life. Actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created the property guardian-themed TV show Crashing, went to visit a derelict hospital with property guardians living there for inspiration. Speaking about her visit there, Phoebe recalled: “It’s this amazing commune: each floor has completely different rules and there’s huge politicking over loo rolls. It’s a flatshare on a huge scale, a city within the city.”
Guardians also work together to improve the community, by reducing the chances of break-ins, squatters, and other anti-social behaviour. Some companies encourage their property guardians to volunteer within the community. For example Dot Dot Dot describe themselves as a “social enterprise”, and have the guardians complete 16 hours per month of volunteer work for a charity of their choice.