Information about Dot Dot Dot’s service for Savills and Land Aid

Prepared on 28th July 2017

We are delighted to partner with Savills and LandAid in order to introduce our solution to more owners of empty properties, while ensuring that some spaces are made available to more people who have previously experienced homelessness, such as customers of New Horizons.

Scroll down to read all the information we are providing Savills in order to share with its clients, or jump to a particular section using the contents.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Abigail Perriman

Contents

Introducing Dot Dot Dot and why we are involved in this collaboration
Type of properties that would be considered
Size requirements
Suitable locations
Lead in time for fitout and delivery
Profile of guardians
Benefits to building owners
Contractual arrangement between owner and guardian organisation

Founded in 2011, Dot Dot Dot stands for property guardianship done in a way which serves the interests of property owners, property guardians and local communities. On behalf of owners, we take good care of buildings that would otherwise be empty. We provide guardians with good quality housing much more affordably than the private rental market. And at the same time we make a positive difference to communities by ensuring our guardians are great neighbours and encouraging them to volunteer for good causes, as well as preventing the blight that empty buildings cause.

All Dot Dot Dot property guardians volunteer for at least 16 hours a month for a charity of their choice – this approach is at the heart of our identity as a social enterprise and it makes us unique amongst property guardian programmes. Volunteers also make good guardians. Those who choose to volunteer tend to be conscientious people who would like to do their best to help others. This means they are particularly suited to being property guardians, as they will look out for the building and their neighbours.

We are delighted to partner with Savills and LandAid in order to introduce our solution to more owners of empty properties and at the same time to ensure that some spaces are made available to more people who have previously experienced homelessness, such as customers of New Horizons. Dot Dot Dot already houses people who have previously experienced homelessness and we have strong processes for ensuring that we house people who are flexible and resilient, regardless of their background. This new collaboration is a way to increase our positive impact on the housing market, by putting more empty buildings to good use for landlords, residents and the local community.

Here are some representative testimonials:

“Guardians have occupied vacant spaces while the estate undergoes a significant period of transition, helping reduce anti-social behaviour as well as providing friendly neighbours for remaining tenants.” Gillian Dart, Thamesmead Regeneration Project Officer, Peabody

“Dot Dot Dot enables us to provide a temporary home for people and they all perform community work as part of their guardianship. This has been positively received in all of the communities where we have worked with Dot Dot Dot.” Tracy Cullen, Chief Executive, Croydon Churches Housing Association

“Dot Dot Dot and their wonderful guardians enhance the properties they live in and keep secure for us. They have proven to be invaluable partners in achieving our aims.” Andrea Baker, Director of Housing, Poplar HARCA

We work with all types of property owner (property developers, local authorities, housing associations, charities and individual private owners) and all types of properties. These buildings can be anything that is suitable to be used or converted into appropriate accommodation: offices, flats, houses, churches, former GP’s surgeries, even disused fire stations.

We only house people in buildings that are safe, secure and well-managed. In July 2017 we passed our external audit for ISO 9001 certification (we are awaiting the formal confirmation). This is an external validation that our internal systems are robust.

We set out minimum health and safety standards for Dot Dot Dot properties clearly in our Property Guardian Standards. Where we take on buildings which don’t meet these standards when handed over to us, we undertake works to improve them to the required level. Depending on the building, this might include upgrading fire detection systems or altering the access of a building to ensure easy escape. Our operations are managed and organised to ensure that properties meet this condition before guardians are placed, and are managed and kept in this condition. This is an important part of our ISO 9001 quality management system.

Dot Dot Dot do not have a minimum size and we work in anything from studio flats to large office buildings. We look forward to working with New Horizons in order to decide the best way to introduce Dot Dot Dot property guardianship as a housing option for their customers. We expect larger properties to be most suitable for New Horizons customers, so that they can be housed alongside other Dot Dot Dot guardians.

We provide housing across England, and we have a particularly strong presence in London, where we work in several boroughs. Over the years it has been fantastic to see that our service works just as well in rural Cambridgeshire, in Sheffield and on the south coast as it does in Notting Hill and Tower Hamlets.

Upon signing an authorisation agreement, buildings are fitted out if required and suitable guardians are recruited simultaneously. Every building is different, but in two recent examples (a former office in Sheffield and a former school in Croydon) fitout works were complete within two weeks. Importantly, once properties meet minimum health and safety standards, we have a rapid turnaround and commit to securing buildings through occupation within 10 working days.

All sorts of people become guardians with Dot Dot Dot. We currently house people between the ages of 20 and 70. They have all sorts of jobs too: Teachers, cleaners, magazine editors, librarians, health workers, engineers, midwives, DJ’s, Ph.D students and dancers.

People become Dot Dot Dot property guardians for different reasons, whether that’s because it opens up a new way of living for them, or it makes their existing lifestyle easier and more affordable. However, all our property guardians share some characteristics: they are resilient, financially stable, conscientious, committed to volunteering for at least 16 hours per month and they all have to pass our stringent application process.

Compared with boarding up a building (the typical securing and managing empty properties), property guardianship has numerous advantages, and – when done well – it does not have any disadvantages:

  • It is more cost-effective
  • There is an established VOA (Valuation Office Agency) precedent for property guardians mitigating up to 100% of business rates
  • It keeps buildings in a safe condition while they are empty for an interim phase (before refurbishment, sale or redevelopment; or after a purchase)
  • It enables social sustainability i.e. neighbourhoods are not blighted by boarded up buildings
  • In residential properties, substantial running costs such as utilities and council tax are transferred to the property guardian company
  • Flexibility is retained, as the property is handed back with 30 days’ notice and short notice access can still be arranged

In Dot Dot Dot’s experience, property guardianship is an excellent security and property management solution, but it goes far beyond that. Property owners also come to us:

  • to create housing
  • to ensure their building remain as useful as possible
  • to provide a tangible and marketable element to their corporate social responsibility initiatives, by creating low cost housing, supporting volunteering, and improving neighbourhoods.

Dot Dot Dot is typically given authorisation by the property owner to grant licences for property guardians to live in an otherwise vacant commercial, service or residential property. The property guardians pay a licence fee to Dot Dot Dot.

For longer and more certain periods the property owner sometimes decides that granting a lease to Dot Dot Dot is the most appropriate structure.

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