In a time when rents are soaring and housing prices are unrealistic for the majority, the idea of paying only a fraction of what other London renters are seems extremely appealing. Enter the property guardians – people who live in empty houses or commercial properties at very minimal costs.
We explain how property guardianship works, how you can become one and the benefits to both the renter and the owner.
How does it work?
The concept of property guardianship is fairly modern and means that large, empty commercial buildings, such as former pubs, schools or warehouses are kept safe by occupants, who are responsible, working professionals from all walks of life. Their role is to temporarily occupy and safeguard the property.
The guardians will be required to pay only a small license fee and should watch over the property, keeping it clean and secure.
Who can become a property guardian?
Anyone can be a property guardian, so long as they meet several basic criteria, which can differ from agency to agency. Generally, applicants must have a valid UK/EU passport, be employed, and have no criminal convictions. Each person is required to fill out a basic application form and will then be cross-checked and, if suitable, normally be invited to an interview.
It is almost always the case that applicants cannot bring pets or dependents (such as children) with them. Couples often find places through property guardianship together but must apply separately as individuals. They may then be allocated spots in the same property, but in different areas.
Where can you live?
Properties are diverse, ranging in size, location, monthly costs, and type – from the standard to the very quirky. Some people find themselves living in unused police stations, schools, pubs, warehouses and former office buildings, while others will simply occupy large private houses, where the owners might have emigrated abroad for a long period of time.
All properties are equipped with bathrooms and cooking spaces, while the majority will also have WIFI, washing machines, fridges and basic furnishings in the common areas.
What are the benefits?
Property guardianship is beneficial to occupants for several reasons, including much lower costs of living, larger spaces, the opportunity to live somewhere totally unique, and a chance to share a community with other, like-minded residents. Due to their short-term nature, they are likely to suit people who live flexible, somewhat unconventional lifestyles.
There are also benefits for the property owners, who will save a lot of money in the long-term. Normally, local authorities or people who own large commercial properties have to fork out huge sums of money each year to cover the costs of security guarding, CCTV or other physical measures required to protect a property from squatting, vandalism and dilapidation costs.
By allowing property guardians to temporarily inhabit those spaces, owners have the peace of mind that they are being properly looked after, guarded and maintained. The costs of having their property managed by a property guardian agency are also much lower.
With the latest UK figures suggesting that there are over 200,000 homes which have been left empty for more than six months, property guardianship allows for better use of such buildings and is advantageous for both occupiers and proprietors.