Interviewee: Graham Sievers, inaugural chairman and secretary of the Property Guardian Providers Association (PGPA)
Issue: How to foster best practice in the property guardian sector
06 November 2018 | Graham Sievers
Graham Sievers discusses how to foster best practice in the property guardian sector.
What are the association's priorities?
To set a series of benchmark regulations that members must sign up to and prove compliance with, and that the PGPA hopes will also guide and influence non-members to follow suit. We issued the white paper that FM World reported on last year, The Law on Property Guardianship, where we commissioned three top housing lawyers and barristers to detail the legislation and safety requirements that apply to the buildings our members are responsible for, and the legal rights and protections of guardians.
The paper also provides a platform for us to clarify the confusion that has arisen over the differences between licensees and tenants. The prime purpose of property guardianship is to provide security with accommodation in temporarily vacant buildings, and not about tackling the housing shortage: it aims to keep buildings that are empty for an interim period more secure by matching them up with occupants for a cost that is much lower than the private rental sector.
How will the annual audit procedures work and what will firms need to do to be up to standard?
Firms will need to meet the criteria set out in the constitution, and the legal standards detailed in the white paper. Some of the proof will be via a validated third-party organisation, such as a bank, confirming that a separate guardian account is actively used, but other parts of the audit will be carried out in person, on site at the members' offices and at their guardian properties. Members will need to keep records of all maintenance requests and works completed, and also detail non-compliances and how they were rectified.
Do you really think it will have the ability to deal with the problems that blight the sector?
I wouldn't describe the sector as being blighted with problems; its growth and success to date would counter that assertion. But definitely membership of the PGPA will not be a question of simply paying a fee Providers who stay out of the PGPA, or can't meet the standards to be able to join, will need to raise their game if they are to stay competitive and win the trust of local authorities, property owners and guardians alike.
What other long-term ambitions does the PGPA have for the sector?
We'd like to see the sector develop further When you consider that there are over 200,000 homes in the UK that have been empty for six months, and add to that some 20m sq ft of vacant offices and commercial space, we should be able to match more properties with people seeking low-cost accommodation. Last year the PGPA's members had 32,000 applications from would-be guardians, but fewer than 10,000 units in available properties. There's no reason why we can't eventually help 100,000 people save money and secure vacant buildings at the same time.