When the idea first came about, the majority of Property Guardians were young creatives taking advantage of live-work spaces in central locations. Now Property Guardians (PGs) come from many different age groups, are often working and on modest incomes.
Becoming a PG is no longer a life-style choice, but a necessity in an over-heated rental market.
Most PGs live a precarious existence. New research, carried out by York University for the London Assembly Housing Committee, found that nearly half of Property Guardians had no idea how long they would be allowed to stay in their property. And living conditions can be austere. The same research found that many had no kitchen facilities at all and some had to rely on temporary shower pods for their washing facilities.
Property Guardianship may be fast growing, but it’s a grey area of the housing market. The concept is a way of protecting vacant property by providing accommodation, normally at submarket rent levels, in residential and commercial buildings.
The deal offers a licence agreement for accommodation instead of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST) which is common in the private rented sector. These licences have very few legal protections compared to an AST.
The London Assembly Housing Committee publishes its report ‘Protecting London’s property guardians‘ today, which makes a number of recommendations to the Mayor and Government to re-balance the relationship between Property Guardians and the companies that manage the properties.
The recommendations include:
• The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should review current legislation and guidance to ensure Property Guardians can benefit from improvements made to the private rented sector.
• The Mayor and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should provide guidance about the legal rights of guardians and where guardians can access help.
• The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should require all Property Guardian companies to register with a recognised property agents redress scheme. This would allow guardians to raise concerns about a company in a ‘safe-space’.
Sian Berry AM, Chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee said: “We’ve looked for the first time in detail at the lives of property guardians in London, and our research found a very different picture from the idea of carefree bohemians living in interesting buildings. Most guardians are simply working Londoners on lower than average wages who don’t see any other affordable options.
The Committee’s report highlights gaps in legislation that mean guardians have little protection from the law. The contracts they sign up to can include clauses that deny them basic human rights like the ability to speak out if they are treated badly.
Without more attention, the growth in guardianship could give rise to a very substandard class of rented accommodation. We want to see action from the Mayor and Government to make potential guardians more aware of their rights and close the gaps in the law to give these most vulnerable renters more protection and security.”