30 April 2015 | News and features | Back to Blog

Dot Dot Dot’s place in the housing pecking order


At Dot Dot Dot our mission is to get empty buildings into use for everyone’s benefit. 

This means we aren’t always the right solution for every landlord, every potential resident and every empty property – and so we regularly advise landlords who contact us with buildings that others could put to better use to speak to other organisations.

This might seem perverse by normal business standards – after all, when we turn down projects, we are often turning down opportunities to make money.   But because we’re a social enterprise, our mission comes first – this is written into our governing documents.   And so when other options for filling up empty homes will achieve greater social good than working with us, we direct the work to other people.

This is especially the case when homes will be empty for longer periods of time.  We are a property guardian company, and this means that we place people in empty buildings on licenses, not tenancies, meaning that they have less security of tenure than those on longer term tenancies.  This is crucial to our model – our service works for owners who need their property to be flexible, so that they can go ahead with their plans when the time is right.

We have written in detail about our approach to this, and how we ensure that we are offering good homes to our residents despite the fact that they have to be flexible about when they move in and out.

But the fact that we can’t offer strong security of tenure means that we often can’t house those who are in the greatest need of housing:

  • We might have to give our guardians 28 days’ notice to move out at any time
  • They would have no right to be rehoused or to contest the eviction
  • We are not a good option for people who need to be based in one area so that they can access support, healthcare, schools or other services.

We can only house people who are don’t have vulnerabilities which would make it especially difficult for them to uproot themselves at short notice.

Placing people in properties as tenants rather than property guardians is a better option for everyone, where it’s possible:

  • It’s better for residents, as they get more confidence about their homes
  • It’s better for landlords, because they are likely to earn more income from using their property in this way.

However, at a time of severe housing shortage, it’s crucial that every habitable home is lived in. 

So where properties aren’t suitable for tenancies – because the length of time they’re set to be empty for is too short or too unpredictable to offer this kind of security – then it’s far better that they be used to house a property guardian rather than be boarded up.

Homes with shutters on doors and windows look ugly, attract anti-social behaviour, fall into dereliction and are a wasted resource. 

When they could be used to house guardians, then they should be.  But where they could be used to house tenants, then that’s better all round – so that’s what we tell potential clients.