Property guardians: Official Guidance
Updated 29 August 2020
What is a property guardian?
There is no statutory or official definition of a property guardian. It is widely accepted that a property guardian is someone who has entered into an agreement to live in a building or part of a building that would otherwise be empty for the primary purpose of securing and safeguarding the property.
How many property guardians are there?
11. There are an estimated 5,000 – 7,000 people living as property guardians in the UK but the exact number is unknown.
What are property guardian companies?
12. A property guardian company finds residents (“property guardians”) for unused premises that they normally don’t own, for the purpose of securing and safeguarding the property. The relevant property guardian company for you will be the company who advertised the property and/ or collects the fee (rent) from you.
What sort of properties are available to guardians?
13. The properties used are often commercial or industrial buildings that are generally not intended or have not been significantly adapted to be used as residential accommodation. They can range from old factories and offices to schools and pubs. As a result, the property might not have the same facilities and fixtures that you might expect to find in a property within the Private Rented Sector. There may also be health and safety hazards which would not normally be present in traditional accommodation and which need to be properly assessed and dealt with. Sometimes residential properties may also be offered.
How much does it cost to live in one of these properties?
14. The cost of occupying a property under a guardian scheme varies and is generally cheaper than renting a property at local market value. This is because the property would otherwise be empty, the guardians may be there for the purpose of securing and safeguarding the property, and the guardians are likely to be on licences which means they are agreeing to conditions such as having to vacate the building with only 28 days’ notice.
This reduced cost does not mean that the safety standards of the property can be compromised and, as set out below, there are certain additional considerations you should take into account before starting a property guardianship.
What sort of agreement may be in place (Tenancy or Licence) and what are the differences between these?
Licence to occupy
Property guardianship agreements are usually offered on a licence to occupy. A licence is a contractual right to occupy premises in return for the payment of a licence fee or performance of a service. In law, a licence arises when there is no right to exclusive possession and there is no intention to enter into a legal relationship of landlord and tenant. However, if the licensee has exclusive possession, it will be a tenancy, even if the agreement labels it as a licence.
A tenancy arises when a landlord grants a tenant a legal right to exclusive possession of premises for a specified period of time, in return for the payment of rent. Under any kind of lease or tenancy, a tenant is entitled to ‘exclusive possession’ (the right of the tenant to exclude all persons including the landlord from the property) and ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the premises. In other words, tenants must be free from unwarranted intrusion by anyone, including the landlord. In addition, there must be an intention to enter into a legal relationship of landlord and tenant. The most common type of tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).
(ref: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/property-guardians-fact-sheet/property-guardians-a-fact-sheet-for-current-and-potential-property-guardians )
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Protection from Eviction Act 1977
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) License
An HMO must have a licence if it is occupied by 5 or more people. A council can also include other types of HMOs for licensing.
Your property is an HMO if both of the following apply:
at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than one household
toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared
A household consists of either a single person or members of the same family who live together. It includes people who are married or living together and people in same-sex relationships.
The council has to carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) risk assessment on your HMO within 5 years of receiving a licence application. If the inspector finds any unacceptable risks during the assessment, you must carry out work to eliminate them.
(ref: https://www.gov.uk/renting-out-a-property/houses-in-multiple-occupation-hmo )
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