Property Guardianship Booms as Homes Left Vacant in London Soar

space sitter pub

Empty property numbers in London are at their highest level in 20 years – Grenfell Tower borough, Kensington & Chelsea, has the highest number of empty homes

Recent government figures have found empty property numbers are at their highest level in 20 years, with 1.4 million ‘spare’ homes lying vacant; having been left empty for at least six months.

The UK is facing a housing crisis. The government must ensure 30,000 new homes are built every year to cope with rocketing demand, fuelled by rising immigration, an ageing population and a lifestyle where people are increasingly living alone.

Property company, Sellhousefast.uk was interested in this subject, and spoke to a few industry experts on the topic.

Mark Scott, a specialist in residential property at law firm Blake Morgan, commented: “Many homeowners might say that ‘a man’s home is his castle’ and the owner is free to leave their property vacant if they desire.

However, there are a large number of empty properties in the UK and many would argue they could be put to better use. One possible way would be to encourage owners of vacant properties to make more use of them.

This could be achieved by offering a tax incentive, perhaps for letting the property out, or making it available for use by local authorities or housing associations in emergency situations.

Another incentive would be a refund of stamp duty land tax, in part, if the property is sold within a certain timescale. This might discourage owners from simply sitting on properties and waiting for the value to increase.”

Property Guardianship is a security solution for landlords who have vacant buildings and are working out what to do with them. Rather than paying out for expensive security, property owners pass their building over to a property guardianship company, who then let it out to key workers, charity workers and public sector workers. This allows tenants to live in interesting, centrally located properties at a much lower price.

Is Property Guardianship a solution for empty homes, and ultimately the housing crisis?

Tim Lowe, founder of Lowe Guardians comments: “Property Guardianship has had a lot of bad press. Five to ten years ago, it was very ‘alternative’. But it is now becoming increasingly popular among working professionals of all ages; people who want interesting, well-located accommodation with a strong community feel.

Demand is growing exponentially. The biggest challenge is to keep up with demand; it’s becoming increasingly high and supply must match that.

Property guardianship might not solve the housing crisis, but it can provide sustainable housing which sits comfortably in-between social housing and luxury high-end.”

Benefits of Property Guardianship

Legal difficulties
Although a fun and social way of living, property guardianship is still a new and unregulated industry and flexible living can be precarious. At present, all PG’s are required to sign a licensee agreement with the PG company. But legally, guardians do not count as tenants and are not protected as such.

What’s more, some PG properties exist in a very poor state, without hot water, and in extremely unsanitary conditions.

The industry must develop a Code of Practise to establish standards and regulate the industry. Luckily, change is beginning to happen.

Tim at Lowe Guardians, adds “At present, Property Guardianship is not very well regulated. Currently, we are forming an association with four other guardian companies to protect and regulate the industry; this includes writing up a uniform set of criteria for guardianship organisations to follow.”

Without a doubt, PG companies should hold adequate insurance to protect all parties. Some insurance companies are wary about insuring a building housed by guardians, and many won’t do it altogether. This practise must change for the industry to grow.

The main image shown is an ex-property guardianship dwelling. A Grade II* listed pub dating back to the 15th century, located in Elstree, Hertfordshire. Currently up for auction.

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