Property guardians can prevent empty buildings deteriorating, attracting squatters and vandals and becoming a blight on the area. But it’s time to they got respect in return – the industry must introduce best practice, says Simon Finneran of Ad Hoc Property Management
Over the last two decades, house prices in the UK have risen to such an extent that people increasingly cannot afford the deposits required just to get their foot in the door. Last year, the average detached house in England and Wales (excluding London) cost over £300,000, a rise of 7.3 per cent in just 12 months. Even if you lower your requirements, you are still looking at around £142,000, or more, for a terraced house no matter where in the country you are.
What does this mean? Clearly it is a dilemma for the government, who not only have to find a way to make housing affordable, but also find more houses to cater for an ever-increasing population. It is also a big issue for those not on the property ladder.
But alongside this we have a rise in the empty property market, a sector that works with owners to bring vacant properties back to life. Whether these are ex-care homes, schools, churches, flats, police stations, government buildings or even mansions, all have the potential to be habitable.
Across the UK, there are over 600,000 empty properties that have no purpose in life, at least until their owners decide what to do with them. This can take anywhere from a few months to several years.
Having people live in them prevents them becoming derelict, squatted and vandalised, as well as providing a low-cost place for people to live while saving up for a mortgage.
Dubbed the guardianship model, this innovative use of empty properties provides individuals with cost-effective and flexible accommodation. If problems arise, the guardian reports them, and organisations such as ours resolve them promptly. From the owner’s perspective, property guardians provide peace of mind that the property is being looked after and kept secure.
Preventing the building standing empty also improves local communities, as well as producing a positive impact on the premises, gardens and external elements that would otherwise be an invitation to vandals and squatters.
Guarding the property guardians
The market for empty properties has grown considerably over the last five years, attracting a range of players, including us, all doing our bit to alleviate the housing crisis. However, as with any growing sector, we are now at the point where standards of best practice are needed to stop the cowboy operators giving us all a bad name.
We have all seen the stories about people living in horrible conditions; we need to stop this from happening and raise standards across the sector.
This is why we have launched our “Respect for Guardians Charter” as the first part of a wider campaign. We want to ensure best practice is adhered to at all times, be it through improved standard of properties, better communication or seeing that guardians have what they need. Our aim is for all organisations to get on board and agree to these changes.
By taking the lead, we will create a more sustainable and credible industry, one that will continue its strong growth in a more structured and regulated way.
To find out more about the charter and what it stands for, please click here.