When finding a new home to live in, there are many avenues to go down. After the initial choice of buying or renting, you need to decide what kind of property you want and if there are schemes that can help you out.
When looking to rent, an uncommon yet viable option is that of property guardianship.
What is Property Guardianship?
Property Guardianship is when someone is allowed to live in an empty property by its owners at low rent in order to ensure the property is looked after and maintained while it is vacant.
To become a property guardian, you must hit certain requirements such as being over 21 and in full-time employment. Full conditions will be laid out in license agreements.
As a guardian, you are not legally classed as a ‘Tenant’ but as a ‘Licensee’, which means you would not be under the usual fixed contract (typically 6-12months for renters). The owner of the property can ask you to leave at any time, but you’ll legally get a 28-day notice period.
What kind of properties can have guardians?
Guardians can be located in almost any kind of vacant property. They have been placed in everything from schools and offices, factories and restaurants. It is also very common to be placed as a guardian of a residential property.
The properties should be kept to a habitable standard, with necessarily facilities and cleanliness. However there have been some horror stories of property guardians living in substandard conditions due to not having the same rights as tenants, so it’s important to be shrewd about choosing the company you use and the property you will be asked to live in. The Property Guardian Providers Association was set up to promote best practices and can help you with this.
What are the benefits of being a Property Guardian?
As an alternative to renting, guardianship can offer some unique benefits to tenants:
Price – the most obvious benefit to being a Property Guardian is the fact that it is generally much cheaper than standard rents. This can be particularly helpful in expensive areas such as London, where rent may be unaffordable, or leave you with little money to spare.
Flexibility – because you are not locked into an extensive, contracted time frame as a guardian, it can be ideal for those who want a short-term residence, or those who want to be able to move on at short notice. You can also usually move into a guardian property within a matter of days as well, making it suitable for those wanting to move in quickly.
What are the drawbacks of being a Property Guardian?
Because guardianship is so different to traditional renting, it does come with many issues:
Short term – because you can be asked to move out within 28 days at any time, Property Guardianship is not ideal as a long-term housing solution, as you do not know how long you will be able to live there. You will need to have somewhere in mind to go if your residence suddenly comes to an end. Guardianship can be long term, but only by moving to a new property once you leave the first, which some companies will allow you to do.
Privacy - Being a licensee rather than a tenant means that the owners can legally access the property at any time without giving you notice.
Responsibility – as a guardian you are expected to maintain the property at the standard you moved in. This does not mean you are acting as security or acting outside your capabilities. But you will be in regular contact with the owner so they can check on things and you can raise concerns.
Restrictions – as a guardian there are restrictions on the kind of life you can lead. Namely, you must have a permanent job or earn above a certain amount, and you are not allowed pets or any other dependents, such as children living with you. You may also need to check with the owners before you wish to have anyone over to the residence.
Property Guardianship is a unique way of renting, but it's not ideal for everyone. It is generally best used for someone looking for flexibility and save on costs – but not for someone looking for a permanent home.
If you are interested in guardianship, be sure to do plenty of research and most importantly have a backup living situation in place, should the guardianship comes to a premature end (for example living with family or friends).