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Property Guardian guidance needs improving, says GLA committee

Words: Laura Edgar
Vacant residential and commercial buildings protected while providing accommodation / iStock-700821868

The London Assembly Housing Committee has recommended that the government should review current legislation and guidance to make sure that Property Guardians can benefit from improvements to the private rented sector.

When the idea of Property Guardians came about, the assembly noted that it was young, creative people that took advantage of live-work spaces in central London, but that now they come from many different age groups and are often working and on modest incomes.

The idea sees vacant property protected while providing accommodation, normally at submarket rent prices, in residential and commercial buildings.

According to research carried out by York University for the London Assembly Housing Committee, nearly half of Property Guardians didn’t know how long they would be able to stay in their property and that living conditions can be “austere”. Many properties didn’t have kitchen facilities at all, while some relied on temporary shower pods for their washing facilities.

While Property Guardianship may be “fast growing”, the assembly said it is a “grey area” of the housing market.

The deal offers a licence agreement for accommodation instead of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST), which has very few legal protections in comparison.

Sian Berry AM, chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee, said: “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.”

The research, Protecting London’s Property Guardians makes a number of recommendations to the government and the Mayor of London that aim to rebalance the relationship between Property Guardians and the companies that manage the properties. These include:

  • The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) should review current legislation and guidance to ensure Property Guardians can benefit from improvements made to the private rented sector.
  • The mayor and MHCLG should provide guidance about the legal rights of guardians and where they can access help.
  • All Property Guardian companies should be required by the MHCLG to register with a recognised property agents redress scheme. This, according to the committee, would allow guardians to raise concerns about a company in a safe space.

“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,” Berry concluded.

Protecting London’s Property Guardians can be found on the Greater London Authority (GLA) website (pdf).

Image credit | iStock