Should I become a property guardian?

Cheap rent in cool locations is pretty tempting – but what are the downsides to being a property guardian? And are the places you live in actually nice?

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Cheap rent? Hell yes!

What is a property guardian?

A property guardian (or ‘live in guardian’) is someone who lives in an empty building for low rent and takes care of the building in return. People sometimes pay as little as £35 a week.

Cheap rent? Sounds amazing – what’s the downside?

You could be asked to move at any time – with as little as two weeks’ notice.

Because you’re not legally a ‘tenant’ you don’t have the usual renting rights. The guardian company you’re with might try to re-house you, but there’s no guarantee.

Are the buildings nice?

There’s hot and cold running water, electricity, and the building will be safe to live in, but that’s pretty much all that’s guaranteed. Some lucky few get to live in empty stately homes, but in reality, a lot of the buildings are unfurnished flats, so you’ll probably need to get hold of the basics: chairs, tables, and maybe a fridge and microwave, yourself. It’s likely to need a clean and a quick paint job, too.

Are there any other benefits to being a property guardian?

As well as being cheap, guardianship can be fun. There’s often a sense of community with other guardians, and it can be a good way of meeting new people in a new place. Dot Dot Dot, a social enterprise that runs a guardian scheme in London, also asks that their guardians volunteer 16 hours a month.

“I would recommend this to anyone who struggles to live in an expensive city like London,” says Remi Bumstead, from Dot Dot Dot. “Often people are not able to volunteer as much as they like as they have to take on extra work to afford London rent.”

I’m still not sure if this is for me…

Being a property guardian isn’t a long-term housing solution. You have to be prepared to not know how long you’re staying in one place.

“You need to be reliable and responsible, resilient and flexible,” says Remi.

If you are, then it’s an opportunity to save some cash.

However, if you want or need a stable home then it’s probably not for you, no matter how cheap the rent is. Don’t despair though! There are other housing options and help you can get.

Next Steps

  • Moving out for the first time? Get the real Home Truths.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015