VPS, the property specialists who are also one of the largest managers of property guardian programmes across the UK, are providing evidence on the best practices for such schemes.

“We match up property owners who have temporarily empty properties on their hands, with people seeking low cost accommodation, but who can be flexible in their stay.” Explains Doug Edwards, the managing director of VPS Property Guardians. “We welcome the London Assembly’s work here, because it is important to define and promote the best practices that should be adopted by all stakeholders in the sector.”

Top of the agenda for VPS is to ensure that any temporarily vacant premises they manage for local authorities or private landlords, meet the health and safety regulations for accommodation.

“We work closely with the owners to ensure properties that are occupied by guardians meet, at the very least, the statutory requirements for safety, but we often go beyond that. Understandably, the focus on safety has been heightened since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.” Says Doug Edwards.

The other issue most commonly raised is about the security of the guardians’ tenure in the properties. Property guardians are licensees, not tenants, which means they have less security of tenure than a tenant would. When an empty office block, public house or other site is required for redevelopment by the owner, there is still a minimum notice period of 28 days for leave that guardians are entitled too, but that is less than it would be for tenants.

“Property guardian schemes are suitable for people who can manage that 28-day notice in their lifestyle. Of course, it’s that very flexibility, together with the below market cost, that attracts people to the scheme. Whenever we have to return a property back to its owners for redevelopment, our first priority is to help our guardians find another suitable home. Demand currently outstrips supply, as well over 90% of our guardians ask to continue as a guardian elsewhere, once they have been given notice.” Doug Edwards comments.

The consultation by the London Assembly is seeking answers to these questions:

  • what type of person becomes a property guardian and why?

  • what legal rights do guardians have and how do they differ to those of private renters?

  • what impact do guarded properties have on local communities?

  • is there a minimum health and safety standard properties must meet before they are protected by guardians?

  • are there any examples of good practice or lessons learned from malpractice the sector could take forward?

  • is there a need for changes to regulation and/or legislation to make the sector operate optimally for all parties?

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Graham Sievers
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