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 seemed 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. It 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 occupy and safeguard the property temporarily.
The guardians will be required to pay only a small license fee and 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 must 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 different areas.
Where can you live?
Properties vary in size, location, monthly costs, and type – from the standard to the very quirky. Some people live in unused police stations, schools, pubs, warehouses and former office buildings. In contrast, others will 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 living costs, larger spaces, the opportunity to live somewhere unique, and a chance to share a community with other, like-minded residents. Due to their short-term nature is 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 inhabit those spaces temporarily, owners have the peace of mind that they are 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 that 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.