6 September 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
A standard to ensure that property guardians operate to the minimum level of requirement should become mandatory, the London Assembly Housing Committee heard this week.
The public meeting in City Hall yesterday was exploring various issues connected to property guardianship including their legal rights and safety, the effectiveness of current legislation and whether it protects guardians adequately, as well as the impact of property guardianship on Londoners, including local authorities.
Giving evidence, Stuart Woolgar, representative of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) Vacant Property Protection section and director of Global Guardians, told committee members that often "property guardians weren't adhering to minimum standards" and sometimes even breaking the law.
Woolgar said he and others at the BSIA had devised a code of practice for property guardians as a part of the British Standard Vacant Property Protection services guidelines.
"We worked with the British Security Industry Association back in 2015 because at the time there was definitely a problem with guardian companies on the market not adhering to minimum and statutory standards," he said.
"Within that standard we began to talk about guardianship. It comes under a heading - protection by occupation which relates to property guardianship and it outlines what property guardianship is, what arrangement a guardian should have with a guardian's company's provider and it also outlines a contract between a property owner with property guardianship company. Within the contract, there are clear stipulations about who deals with maintenance issues, for instance."
It also includes details such as notice periods required, monthly inspection protocols, what the client should be receiving such as heating, hot water and other basic standards.
Woolgar said the standard "has been published and the next step would be to have a body to implement it because "if you had a body to monitor and regulate the industry, then anyone who starts a guardian company would have to adhere to that minimum code of practice".
He added: "You can't become a security company or provide security guards unless you are SSA-approved. If we could get that level you can't become a property guardian company unless you are a member of the BSIA - then you can deal with the practice and 'cowboy' companies wouldn't be able to exist."
Others giving evidence included: Professor Caroline Hunter, York Law School, University of York; Lord Kennedy of Southwark, Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government, Housing and Home Affairs) and Opposition Whip (Lords); Rubina Nisar, valuation and strategic assets manager at the London Borough of Lambeth; and Jon Castine, environmental health officer at Westminster City Council.
Read more about property guardianship in September's issue of FM World.