14 February 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Nearly half of London's property guardians have no idea how long they will be allowed to stay in their property.
Research carried out by York University for the London Assembly Housing Committee also reveals that many people it surveyed have no kitchen facilities at all and some had to rely on temporary shower pods as washing facilities and living conditions were generally austere.
Property guardianship is a fast-growing but grey area of the housing market. The idea is a way of protecting vacant property by providing accommodation - normally at submarket rent levels - in residential and commercial buildings.
The report, Protecting London's Property Guardians, makes a number of recommendations to the Mayor of London and the government to rebalance the relationship between property guardians and the companies that manage the properties.
- The recommendations include:
- The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should review current legislation and guidance to ensure that property guardians can benefit from improvements made to the private rented sector.
- The mayor and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should provide guidance about the legal rights of guardians and where guardians can access help.
- The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government should require all property guardian companies to register with a recognised property agents redress scheme. This would allow guardians to raise concerns about a company in a 'safe-space'.
Sian Berry AM, chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee, said: "We've looked for the first time in detail at the lives of property guardians in London, and our research found a very different picture from the idea of carefree bohemians living in interesting buildings. Most guardians are simply working Londoners on lower than average wages who don't see any other affordable options.
"The committee's report highlights gaps in legislation that mean guardians have little protection from the law. The contracts they sign up to can include clauses that deny them basic human rights like the ability to speak out if they are treated badly.
"Without more attention, the growth in guardianship could give rise to a very substandard class of rented accommodation. We want to see action from the mayor and government to make potential guardians more aware of their rights and close the gaps in the law to give these most vulnerable renters more protection and security," concluded Berry.