A property guardian is someone who lives in a building that would otherwise be left empty and in return for taking care of the building pays a very low level of rent. It has been promoted as a new and affordable means of living in expensive urban areas such as London. Guardians are expected to live in the property on a full-time basis, ensure it is secure and well-maintained.
It has been estimated that 70% of the properties requiring guardians are commercial, but some are also private homes. They could be vacant due to:
- The property’s owners being overseas.
- The property being put up for sale.
- Waiting for planning permission.
- Developers waiting until the property market improves before selling it.
Whilst the type of building may vary from stately home to unfurnished flat, there are some basic requirements before it can be let to a guardian:
- It must be wind and water tight.
- It must not be vandalised or derelict.
- It must have basic electricity and water facilities.
The benefits of having a property guardian include:
- Costs are saved on expensive security systems.
- As the property will count as being ‘occupied’, insurance premiums are considerably lower than if it were classified as ‘vacant’.
- As there is an occupant the building is legally protected against squatting.
- The property will be maintained, heated and aired.
- The property is more likely to maintain its value.
The benefits for those looking to become property guardians are that it can offer the chance to live in desirable locations, or in interesting buildings, for much lower rent than they would otherwise be expected to pay.
The disadvantages to being a guardian are that the usual renting rights do not apply. There is also the insecurity of the tenure, which can vary from two or three months to several years depending on the circumstances of the property.
If the property is sold or the developer/owner decides they wish to make use of the property, the guardian must vacate the building, often with as little as two weeks’ notice. Guardianship companies that vet and allocate applicants generally try to re-house guardians, but finding another property cannot be guaranteed.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Buy-to-let mortgage.
- Ground rent.
- Housing tenure.
- Landlord and Tenant Act.
- Private rented sector.
- Property ownership.
- Shared ownership.
- SHED concept.
- What is a mortgage?
 External references
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