If a building looks empty, neglected or run-down, it’s an open invitation to trouble. From squatters, fly-tippers, criminals, drug dealers, even homeless people simply looking for somewhere more sheltered to spend the night. The option of secure fencing, shutters or boarding around a site merely attracts disfiguring graffiti and doesn’t keep out anti-social or criminal behaviour. Nor do CCTV or alarms. The perpetrators are usually long gone before security guards or the police arrive. Determined thieves will target anything with a scrap value and this can cause immense damage to a property. Security guards and dogs generally can’t be there 24/7, the budget for that is simply impractical.
Overriding all of this is the cost of business rates or council tax, and insurance, all of which still have to be paid, and adequate insurance cover for vacant property can often be difficult to negotiate. Some empty buildings can sit for years while owners fight planners, try to find buyers or simply landbank the property, so the risk and costs continue, and often increase as time goes on.
One solution to this is to install property guardians in the premises through an ethical and responsible company that can turn the void into an income generator, as opposed to a drain, for as long as is necessary.
A vacant property guardian is a responsible person who occupies an empty building as a deterrent against squatting, theft, anti-social and criminal behaviour and dereliction. They are a form of residential custodian who pays to temporarily live in an unoccupied property under a licence agreement, until the property owner requires the building back.
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It’s important to note property guardians occupy premises under a licence agreement, not an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). A property guardian pays a licence fee in order to share the living space in an empty property and this fee is not classified as rent, and the guardian has no tenancy rights. Guardians also do not have exclusive possession of any part of the building and their primary role is to protect an empty property, usually in cooperation with other guardians sharing the living space. All guardians on my company’s books are working professionals, often staff in inner-city offices, shops and other key jobs.
When a property owner contracts a guardian company, it then takes over responsibility for the property maintenance and provides reliable people to live on site and provide security 24/7 as one of them always has to be in situ and their presence deters all the anti-social behaviour. Property guardians also impact positively on the rates/council tax liability and their occupation of the building may have a beneficial impact on the type of insurance cover offered and premiums paid. In addition, the buildings and/or site can sometimes be put to further commercial use: everything from a full blown film set or just a small location shoot, to an advertising hoarding site or the provision of temporary off-road parking spaces.
Using proper guardians – through an ethical company, which should be a member of the British Security Industry Association – is the obvious security choice for any developers or asset managers with vacant buildings in their portfolios, residential or commercial. It undoubtedly can save them money and a lot of unnecessary aggravation.