In the first of a series of personal accounts, the Property Guardian Providers Association has today published a range of individuals’ own stories on how becoming a guardian has been a force for good for their lives. This affordable accommodation scheme helps to secure properties that would otherwise be standing empty as they await redevelopment plans, by having guardians occupy them, in return for a license fee that is often half or less of an equivalent in the private rental sector.

Poppy is a 29 year old woman who, after becoming a property guardian, was able to save enough money to get onto the property ladder and put a deposit down on her current home in London, no less. Poppy’s first property she stayed in, was a bedroom in an old newspaper building, costing only £250 pcm including all bills.

She went on to stay as a property guardian for four more years, by which time she had saved thousands of pounds, enough to put a deposit down on her own home.

Not all guardians are ’twentysomethings’ – Andy, by contrast, is in his fifties, and works as a teacher and craftsman on leatherworking in Newcastle.  “When I was shown around the property it was very appealing. It is one of three bungalows, situated in a rural location, but still has easy access to the town centre. Initially I was a little wary about sharing a space with others, but everyone is really respectful and easy to get on with. The fact that I can come home after work and have a chat with one of the other residents is lovely, yet we don't crowd each other’s space. There's very little to dislike about being a property guardian to be honest,” Andy says.

Whilst about a third of guardians work in arts and creative jobs, some have entirely different backgrounds. When Tidus , 29, left behind his armed forces career, the cost of living in a private rental in Bristol city was prohibitive. For a year and a half as a property guardian, he resided in Bristol where he was able to save money while still being able to enjoy a social life. The building he resided in had 10 others living in it, “all of

whom were great to be around, making the experience all the more better. I would recommend property guardianship to someone coming out of the military as it is really beneficial. Being able to save money to get into the private rental market is one of the biggest benefits.”

Simon Wright, head of UK operations for Ad Hoc Property Management, a founding member of the PGPA and who collated this first in a series of case studies, added: “In an age of housing shortages and sky-high rents, it’s ridiculous that so many properties are allowed to sit empty, and worse, be subjected to vandalism and squatting, or fall into disrepair. The PGPA estimate over 600,000 commercial and residential buildings are vacant around the UK, and that 60,000 people applied to be guardians. But there are less than 10,000 guardian places available at the moment; more owners should loom at this cost-free way of securing their empty units, and the government should be encouraging this great option for affordable accommodation.“

The case studies are available to view on the PGPA’s website.

Property guardianship, the PGPA cautions, is not for everyone. You have to be in employment, and be flexible, in case plans for the building being occupied come to fruition. You are expected to be able to move, if necessary, with 28 days’ notice, and although guardian companies will seek to provide similar opportunities, whether they succeed will depend on the properties currently available. Therefore, the lifestyle is not suitable for some, like those with young families, for example.

This year, independent safety audits of PGPA member’s properties have been introduced – only members of the PGPA are subject to this safety provision. The PGPA has agreed a co-ordinated partnership with a Primary Authority. Any members property secured by guardians, can be subject to a safety, health and environmental check, at short notice.

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