Housing Crisis Prompts Skyrocketing Demand for Property Guardianship Positions

Property Guardianship

Relocating can be stressful at the best of times, but it is nonetheless an everyday part of life for the UK’s estimated 10,000 property guardians. Property guardianship is a popular, recognised, and heavily regulated concept in some other European countries, but it is uncommon in the United Kingdom.

But for those who are able to assume the role of property guardian, the potential benefits can be huge.

Property guardians pay property management companies a set fee to live in (and take basic care of) properties that would otherwise be empty buildings. This could be anything from a disused retail building to a vacant office complex to a historic listed building. Property guardians need to be flexible, as they can be asked to leave (and/or relocate to another property) at any time with just four weeks’ notice.

In return, property guardians get to live in these unused properties for an average of just £350 per month—significantly less than the cost of renting a single room in even a fairly modest property.

Health and safety regulations

In order for a vacant property to be let out to a guardian, it needs to be in a suitable state of repair and comply with all basic health and safety legislation. This means it must have appropriate cooking, washing, and sleeping facilities, along with reliable access to basic utilities, in a generally safe and secure environment.

The guardian is essentially an employee of the real estate management company, taking basic care of the building on their behalf. For the property management company, significant savings are made on the costs of formal property upkeep and hiring security firms or guards to watch over their properties.

Growing demand

Record-high monthly rents coupled with the escalating living-cost crisis have resulted in a major spike in demand for guardianship places, according to the Property Guardian Providers Association (PGPA).

It is estimated that there are currently around 10,000 property guardians in the UK, but the number is expected to swell to more than 50,000 by the end of this year. According to the PGPA, no less than 32,000 people submitted applications to become guardians over the past 12 months.

The PGPA has warned that the sector is unlikely to be able to meet growing demand due to general shortages of available inventory. In addition, increasingly tight regulations placed on properties are making it difficult for property management companies to hire guardians for some types of buildings and premises.

But while a lack of long-term stability and being forced to relocate regularly bring issues, most of those taking part in the scheme believe that the pros vastly outweigh the cons.

In addition, potential security concerns regarding these vacant properties are apparently unfounded, according to the chair of the PGPA.

“The security aspect that guardians provide is simply by being in occupation,” said Graham Sievers, pointing out that vacant buildings without guardians are far more likely to attract squatters and anti-social behaviour.

“The guardians themselves are not expected to be security officers or patrol the building.”

Mr Sievers also said that by no means is the guardianship scheme aimed exclusively at vulnerable people in desperate financial situations.

“We’ve had people who are approaching retirement—teachers, for example—turning to guardianship so that they can save up money to buy their ideal cottage,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities released a statement suggesting that such schemes should be approached with due care and caution.

“We do not endorse or encourage property guardianship as a form of housing,” read the statement.

We recognise, however, that people have the right to make their own informed decisions about their housing choices, and property guardians and local councils should follow our extensive guidance on their rights and responsibilities.”