Property Guardian firms make strides towards self-regulation

Seven leading firms within the Property Guardian industry have taken a major step forwards towards self-regulation with the publication of a detailed new guide on the legal framwework that protects property guardians.

Entitled 'The law on property guardianship', the document describes itself as 'a white paper setting out the health, safety and legal status of security through occupation'.  It is written by three lawyers, including Giles Peaker, who has often made robust comments about some industry practices in his nearlylegal blog and is clearly not anyone's poodle.

At 40 pages long, this is easily the most detailed document to emerge on the various legal issues associated with guardianship and provides an important point of reference for those with concerns about the legal status and rights of the guardians and the protections available to them, whether in respect of occupation rights or of housing standards. The only major area of law not considered is planning.

The White Paper is published by the (currently seven) property guardian firms that are in the process of setting up a Property Guardian Providers' Association. The seven firms are:

  • Ad Hoc
  • DEX
  • Dot Dot Dot
  • Guardians of London
  • Live-in Guardians
  • Lowe Guardians
  • VPS Guardians

The formal establishment of self-regulating industry body cannot come too soon for practitioners who want to include the property guardian option in their toolbox. At our December Executive, which is generously hosted by Ad Hoc Property Management Ltd in London, Jason Barnard of Ad Hoc challenged us about the small number of referrals coming from local authority empty homes practitioners. We pointed out the issues that arise in making referrals to guardian firms in the absence of any regulatory mechanism and particularly given some of the negative press stories that have circulated, for example in respect of Camelot's evictions in Bristol. (It is interesting that Camelot, undoubtedly one of the biggest players, is not amongst the seven pioneers listed above).

In fact EHN had been offering itself as an 'honest broker' for a number of years specifically with the aim of getting clear and robust standards developed. Finally, if without much help from us, it seems as though the industry is getting its act together, with benefits for everyone involved.

The white paper is downloadable from the websites of the seven providers: our Information Library record points towards the Ad Hoc website given their  support for the Empty Homes Network over the years.

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Has anyone had any success in promoting guardian companies to owners? I've tried but failed. In my experience, owners seem suspicous of the guardian companies and the guardians themselves, perhaps because they've never heard of such companies and the transient nature of guardians. The nil rent doesn't help, even if they're not getting any rent at the moment. I would be interested to hear other's experiences.

Dan Thorning, Plymouth CC