property guardians

Becoming a Property Guardian is no longer a life-style choice, but a necessity in an over-heated rental market

Property Guardians (PGs) come from many different age groups, are often working and on modest incomes. Most PGs live a precarious existence.

New research, carried out by York University for the London Assembly Housing Committee, found that nearly half of Property Guardians had no idea how long they would be allowed to stay in their property. And living conditions can be austere.

The same research found that many had no kitchen facilities at all and some had to rely on temporary shower pods for their washing facilities.

Property Guardianship may be fast growing, but it’s a grey area of the housing market. The concept is a way of protecting vacant property by providing accommodation, normally at submarket rent levels, in residential and commercial buildings.

The deal offers a licence agreement for accommodation instead of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST) which is common in the private rented sector. These licences have very few legal protections compared to an AST.

The London Assembly Housing Committee has published a report ‘Protecting London’s property guardians‘, which makes a number of recommendations to the Mayor and Government to re-balance 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 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.

“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.”


  1. Interesting article and I don’t mean to slate it, however since it sounds like the property guardians are assumed to be carefree bohemians and that the properties themselves are in a state that would not satisfy AST legalities, I feel the need to point out that not all guardians situations are quite as dire as is implied in this article. As with any system there will always be a way to abuse it and the people in it, and some companies will fill that niche for the financial reward alone.

    By contrast I am a property guardian for a company who genuinely looks after their licensees. We may pay far less rent than usual but the facilities are far from substandard, maintenance issues are fixed within a few days and the property is enormous. In short, everyone here is on a sweet deal, from the owner of the property to the company from which I “rent”, to me. We all win.

    My housemates are far from the bohemians assumed by Sian Berry, between the eleven of us there are as many masters degrees and PhDs as you’ll find in any eleven fellows in the House of Commons. Mostly late thirties professionals, mostly couples, some of us have been property guardians with our company for many years. Some own property but still prefer to live as guardians. It’s far better and far cheaper than the usual London rental market.

    Could it perhaps be that somewhere in the mire between hippie communes and substandard living accommodation, that there are in fact many genuine situations involving property sales taken up by guardianship companies, which allow clever people to take advantage of the enormous saving for very little compromise, happily, in full understanding and acceptance of the terms? Guardianship may not be for everyone, but for those of us who use it, it works very well.


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