Modern day London is a city of over eight million inhabitants, accounting for almost a fifth of England’s total population. All of those people – and the thousands more who flock to the capital each year – require somewhere to live, which has caused rents and property prices to skyrocket. For young people in particular this can be a huge barrier towards making their dream move.
As a result of this situation, an innovative idea has started to take hold: property guardianship. A property guardian essentially acts as a live-in caretaker for a vacant building, keeping landlords happy whilst benefiting from vastly reduced rent prices. This is regarded as a win-win situation for both parties. The renter enjoys cheap rates and the property owner has a much cheaper route than hiring private security to look after the building.
There are thought to be around 700,000 empty homes in England, with a large share of those located in and around London. Politicians have been attempting to tackle this problem but so far have struggled to come up with a solution that offers benefits to landlords and tenants. Property guardianship is one method that brings both potential and proven results, having been tried and tested in several European countries since the 1990s, particularly the Netherlands where the movement began.
Renting a property as a property guardian has lower costs as its main advantage, but for anyone enticed by the possibilities it is well worth remembering the potential drawbacks too. Guardians currently don’t have the same rights as regular tenants, putting them more at risk when it comes to sudden changes in circumstances like evictions. Whether participants are willing to opt for reduced security because of the rewards on offer needs careful consideration by each applicant.
Guardians are often asked to meet a set of requirements before they are considered and closely follow a list of rules once they move in. For example, limitations may be placed on the number of guests, and agencies tend to prefer those who are both employed and single. The first inauguration session usually requires a passport, bank statement and a reference from a landlord or an employer to be provided. Most property guardians tend to be young people in their 20s and 30s.
Being a property guardian has many advantages, but it carries some risks as well and applicants must make this choice with careful consideration. The renting contracts are usually on a short-term basis and eviction notices may be as short as a couple of weeks. Although it is risky, agencies like Global Guardians claim to have a 98% re-housing rate and always help their renters find a new place to move to. Some agencies even operate as social enterprises which require their guardians to put in a few hours each week helping out with charitable causes.
Becoming a property guardian is an adventure for many young people, but it may eventually have much wider implications as a way to redress the balance of overcrowding and vacant properties.