9 November 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
A 'white paper' has been published setting out the legal and safety obligations for guardians and property owners.
It has been issued by seven property guardian companies (Ad-Hoc, DEX, Dot Dot Dot, Guardians of London, Live-in Guardians, Lowe Guardians and VPS Guardians) to drive up standards and to help inform and safeguard the interests of both property owners and guardians.
The Law on Property Guardians details the current legal status for guardians, the compliance requirements and the health and safety obligations that providers of property guardian schemes must meet.
It has been written by "a prominent, independent legal team", comprising housing lawyer Giles Peaker, and a principal QC and barrister-in-law from Arden Chambers, Andrew Arden and Andrew Dymond. It seeks to guarantee better practice in the industry through a minimum common standard.
Property guardian companies match up property owners who have temporarily empty vacant properties on their hands, with people seeking low-cost accommodation, but who can be flexible in their stay. Often, such properties' living costs are around half that of similar accommodation in the private rental sector.
Graham Sievers, spokesman for the group, said: "The group has been meeting during the year to set up a property guardian providers' association."
He added: "First, the providers wanted to benchmark what is the current legal status of a guardian, and what the obligations are for the owners or management companies for premises being used to house guardians. This document, we hope, will help inform all stakeholders and support our aim to promote best practice across the industry, advocating that all legal and safety standards and regulations are adhered to, or exceeded, by property guardian providers."
"Essentially, we want to ensure that running a property guardians' programme not only provides one means, albeit very small, to alleviate the pressure on housing, but does so ethically and safely."
Three key points from the 40-page paper are:
- 1) Health and safety requirements apply to all buildings where property guardians live, whether they are commercial, residential or other types.
- 2) Fire safety, gas safety and any potential on-site hazards fall under the same regulations as those for tenants, and are enforceable by the same authorities.
- 3) Property guardians sign-up as licensees, not tenants: two of the key differences include non-exclusive occupation of the premises and shorter notices to leave. In return, guardians live in low-cost accommodation.