Property Guardians: The Good… The Bad…And The Ugly

Property Guardians: The Good… The Bad…And The UglyWhat is your highest, or one of your more costly monthly expenditures each month….rent!

If you are a tenant.

It may be your mortgage if you are a property owner.

Depending on where you live, your rent could be 30% or even up to 50% of your monthly wages.

The average rent in England and Wales has now rose to £816 per month. And if you live in London then you know it is even higher, as the average is £1,300 a month.

The Director of Your Move, Adrian Gill states, “Rents have been growing faster than ever – particularly in real terms, given inflation has essentially been zero since February. Across the country, towns and cities are seeing demand from local tenants outstrip the supply of properties to let, with inevitable effects on rents. There is little sign yet of this cooling substantially as the autumn progresses.”

Housing charity Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb stated, “It’s time for George Osborne to give back hope to ordinary families who are priced out and losing out by investing in the genuinely affordable homes we need, for renting or buying, in the upcoming spending review.”

So with housing being and becoming so expensive, naturally we are all looking for ways to reduce that expense, and one way is through shared accommodations.

If you share the expenses associated with having a place to live, obviously it becomes cheaper. And for some sharing a place to live is a necessity.

In some instances it may be that a house is already set-up to be a shared house, or it could be someone has a house or flat and takes in a flatmate or lodger to help share the bills.

Having experienced this in the past, there are some positive and negative aspects to this type of accommodation.

You’ll rarely be alone is one aspect to consider; which for some may be good, and for some may be not so good.

There also is the fact you can share the chores and cleaning up. Hopefully everyone is on the same cleanliness page.

Sharing a place to live is just one way to reduce your overall living expenses. And so is being a property guardian.

Property Guardians: The Good… The Bad…And The UglyWhat Are Property Guardians

Property guardians are tenants of a property that may be unique or even a graded building, such as old pubs, schools, hospitals, etc. You can think of it as almost a legal squatter.

As a tenant you are expected to look after the property, not in a maintenance sense, but just to live there and by living there you show the property as inhabited.

And for this you receive cheap rent.

For some guardians they don’t pay “rent” as we think of it, but a management fee. Which is still much cheaper than rent in the areas they may be living in.

How much cheaper, a lot cheaper.

You get a unique place to live, and may only pay £40 or £50 a week in rent.

Regarding property guardians, Ad Hoc’s Joseph Cooper stated, “Our guardians are mostly professional people, key workers or students with jobs. Most see living in an empty building as a bit of an adventure and a chance to save money.”

“Vacant buildings cost money and with the recession more properties are being sold, or put out of use, as companies sell off assets or downsize.”

It can be a win-win situation as the owners of these properties have someone there, and the tenants get cheap rent.

David Ireland of Empty Homes stated, “Empty property is bad news. A window gets smashed and that signals the place is empty long-term. Then it risks being stripped of its valuable pipework and damaged beyond immediate use.”

And this type of living is not limited to just England, there are properties in Europe as well.

There are old amusement parks and castles available abroad.

Camelot spokesperson, David Mills said, “It’s an extraordinary saving for the owner, too. Typically, a local authority or someone with a large commercial property would pay six figures annually for security guards, CCTV, gates and other physical security. With a firm like ours it could be just a few thousand instead, and more peace of mind.”

I knew someone who was a property guardian a couple of years ago.

They lived in an old school, and had three other guardian-mates living there with them.

A few of the old classrooms had been converted into bedrooms, and they shared a communal kitchen and also bathrooms.

My friend said it was an interesting experience and she liked it. She enjoyed the people she was sharing the building with, and said that since the building was so large, she felt she had her own space and was not boxed in.

Her room was so large, she made it into her own flat.

She had a small kitchen area with a microwave, kettle, small fridge, and electric cooker. There was a sink in the room, so she had running water, and she had enough space to put in a desk, chair, sofa, and her TV and TV stand.

And for this she paid £150 a month, all bills included.

Her major complaint was there was no Internet, and they could not have Internet brought in. She got around this by using her iPad and having a 4G contract.

So for my friend, it was a positive experience. However, it may not be that way for everyone. There are some caveats that need to be covered.

Property Guardians: The Good… The Bad…And The UglySome Downsides to Being a Property Guardian

Obviously cheap rent is going to be quite a draw for someone to enter into being a property guardian. In fact it may be the strongest draw. And for some people, they may need to go this route as they cannot afford to live any other way.

However, there are a few downsides and negatives that do need to be mentioned and considered prior to entering into this type of living arrangement.

One of the first things to consider is the property itself. Where is it located and what condition is the property in?

My friend was in an old school and it was located on the edge of town, which was a good area and location. In addition, much of the property was in good repair. There were a few “no go” areas as the paint was peeling and the floors in rough shape, but the rooms the people lived in were OK.

While the properties may be unique, they may also be in a state of disrepair.

Another consideration is how presented is the property?

If you move in and it has not been cleaned at all, or still has rubbish and junk lying about, you will need to clean this all away prior to moving in.

Also what about vermin, mainly mice or worse yet, rats.

Another point to remember is that as a property guardian you do not have the same rights as a tenant. Property guardians are not tenants, but licensees.

Birkbeck University’s Dr. Sarah Keenan, from the department of law states, “Whereas a tenant has the right to exclude ‘all the world’ including the landlord, licensees have the lesser right of ‘occupation’, and are generally expected to allow the landlord access as and when he seeks it.”

She adds, “Guardianship properties are highly exploitative of the housing crisis. The situation guardianship companies are setting up is one that profits from buildings being left undeveloped and all but uninhabitable for long periods, and from the increasingly desperate situation of people who are unable to afford market rent.”

“It makes the crisis worse by normalising a situation in which landowners view their land as a purely financial asset rather than a limited and vital human resource, where non-owners live in squalid and potentially unsafe temporary accommodation.”

Part of why these guardianships exist and are popular, besides the cheap rent, is that it can be difficult in some areas to find suitable housing, there are housing shortages.

The Director of Dotdotdot Property, Katherine Hibbert says, “What we really need is to build more good homes. Property guardianship can never be the whole solution – it’s not right for everyone. But getting Britain’s empty properties into use can definitely do a lot to ease the current housing shortage, and we’re glad to help our guardians find good homes they can afford in the most expensive parts of the country.”

There are health, safety and fire conditions that need to be met in order for people to live in these properties.

Head of Operations at Guardians of London, Gavin Handman states, “For a small start-up fee, we’ll install ‘wheel in, wheel out’ shower pods so we can provide temporary washing facilities.”

“The guardians provide their own kitchen facilities, including microwaves and portable kitchen hobs that are no greater than 13 amps for fire safety reasons.”

“If it’s a large building, we place guardians strategically throughout the building. If it’s a big former office building, for example, we can put as many as 30 guardians in there if necessary, but we don’t overfill our properties like some other guardian companies, so wear and tear is kept to a minimum.”

So there are companies offering property guardianship and aiding in insuring the property is somewhat habitable.

The biggest draw for someone to be a property guardian is going to be the cheap rent. If you live in an area where affordable housing is difficult to find, this is another alternative.

Channel 4 has a sitcom based on property guardianship entitled “Crashing”.

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