Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here you’ll find the answers to the questions we are most frequently asked by guardians and property owners. From queries about refundable security payments, notice periods, property protection and everything in between, we hope you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

If you have a question that isn’t answered below, please email us at

Property Guardian FAQs

Property Guardian Licence Vs Rental Tenancy

Property guardianship brings buildings that would otherwise stand empty back into use as temporary housing. These buildings can be anything that is suitable to be used or converted into a safe, appropriate home: offices, flats, houses, churches, former GP’s surgeries, even disused fire stations. Property guardianship provides security to the property owner while the building is empty, and provides a cost-effective housing option for the guardians living there. This model is affordable and growing.

All Dot Dot Dot properties meet the same health and safety standards as the private rented sector, including HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) licensing and rules.

People choose to be property guardians for different reasons, whether that’s because it opens up a new way of living for them, allows them to move to a new area, helps them to save or makes their existing lifestyle easier and more affordable.

To be a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian:

  • You will need to volunteer a minimum of 16 hours per month whilst acting as a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian
  • You are aged 18 or older.
  • You aren’t looking to live with any children under 18.
  • You aren’t looking to live with any pets or animals.
  • You have a reliable source of funds for your licence fee.
  • You aren’t looking to use the property for business or public events. Residential use only.

We also have some other rules and regulations that our guardians must follow. We will explain all of these to you at viewings as some are specific to the properties.

If you are looking for a more affordable and sustainable housing option and are keen to be part of a brilliant community of guardians and neighbours, then being a Dot Dot Dot property guardian could be for you.

Property guardianship is different from renting in the private sector as the main role of a guardian is to protect the property they are in from squatters and anti social behaviour and to keep an eye out for maintenance issues. This can be done by living in them as your home, so this doesn’t mean that you need to be there 24/7, but we are seeking reliable and flexible people who will look after the property.

The two legal differences between property guardians and tenants are:
1. the notice period to leave the building is just 28 days and there are fewer rights to contest this in court
2. they agree to a non-exclusive possession of the property (which means that the property guardian company or the property owner can enter the property without giving notice).

Crucially, outside these two differences, property guardians are entitled to the same protection as tenants with regard to health and safety, fire and HMO legislation as well as from the Protection from Eviction Act.

Properties are empty for a variety of reasons. For example the landlord may be changing the use of the property, redeveloping it, or even knocking it down. This process can be lengthy so in the meantime properties often stand empty and unused.

If the property owner needs the property back, then we will give you 28 days’ notice to leave. We will always try and rehouse guardians who are doing great voluntary work. However, this isn’t always possible so we cannot make any guarantees.

Becoming a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian

Dot Dot Dot is a social enterprise. This means that we are in business to address social needs – our commitment to provide great housing to guardians and to make communities safer and stronger is at the heart of everything we do.

All our property guardians volunteer for at least 16 hours per month to a cause of their choice, and many do far more than this. This can be something you do already or something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the opportunity.

We pay considerable attention to attracting good people and the attention to detail in our vetting process means that our property guardians are community-focused and like-minded individuals. Strong friendships and communities are created by Dot Dot Dot guardians.

To ensure that we are providing a great service to everyone involved our Relationship Coordinators look after a smaller number of people and buildings than is normal in the sector. If you become a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot, you will know you are being looked after. We also believe consistency, predictability and transparency are key to providing excellent property guardians. You can find the standards we work to when providing housing to Dot Dot Dot Property Guardians here.

No, not all of our guardians come to us with a volunteering experience or a set idea of what they want to be involved in. All we ask is that you are committed to starting, and we will give you help and support to find an opportunity.

If you do already volunteer, that’s great. We don’t ask you to start any new roles, and we love to hear from people who are already making a positive social impact and would like more affordable housing.

We have housed thousands of property guardians including designers, students, teachers, cleaners, magazine editors, librarians, support workers, engineers, zookeepers, midwives, DJs and dancers: all sorts of people become property guardians with us.

Fees & Cost

We have always been transparent about our licence fees and we have never charged additional sign up costs or administration charges. As a Dot Dot Dot guardian, you will need to pay a refundable security payment, your monthly licence fee and your utility bills and council tax.

We have no administration or sign up fees. Each guardian pays a monthly licence fee, which varies according to location, size and amenities.

Each guardian will need to pay a refundable security payment before they sign up. This is calculated based on 5 weeks’ of fees, which will vary from property to property. For example:

  • if the monthly fee is £500, then the security payment will be £500 x 12 ÷ 52 x 5 = £576.92.
  • if the fee is £700, then the security payments will be £700 x 12 ÷ 52 x 5 = £807.69.

Where our fees are inclusive of Council Tax or utilities, these will be factored into the security calculation.

We return security payments within 28 days of receiving all necessary information. We will only make reasonable deductions if there are belongings left behind, you haven’t paid your bills or there is significant damage to your property. Apart from these cases, we have a consistent record of returning security payments in full without any deductions.

In most cases, it is the guardians’ responsibility to set up and pay for the utilities (gas, electric, water) and council tax for where they are living.

In some of our properties, however, bills are included. We will specify what bills are included on the relevant property page.

We are members of The Property Ombudsman Scheme, which gives our guardians confidence that we have systems in place and gives them access to a redress scheme if and when the Dot Dot Dot’s complaints process does not resolve the situation satisfactorily.

Prior to your sign-up-meeting, you must be able to provide:

  1. Proof of identity
  2. Proof of current address
  3. Proof of income
  4. Funds to pay your security deposit and any other required fees

You will receive more information on these documents when we invite you to a sign-up meeting.

No, we do not accept guarantors as proof of income or security. You will need to prove you can support yourself whilst living as a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian.

Dot Dot Dot Properties

No, most of our properties are unfurnished and have no white goods like ovens and fridges.

You might think that finding furniture can be daunting, but we’ve had a lot of experience helping guardians and can provide you with tips and tricks. Guardians often share things they no longer need with each other as well. We ask guardians to source furniture and white goods because this keeps the prices we need to charge guardians down compared with us supplying these things ourselves, and it gives guardians a chance to choose for themselves and buy second-hand if they like, compared with the bland, uniform furniture most landlords provide.

At your sign-up-meeting, we will run through our rules and regulations. If you are new to property guardianship, you may be surprised by some of them, as they are often more comprehensive than those of a tenancy. However, having a clear set of rules is the best way to protect the health and safety of our guardians and to ensure that the properties are secure and well looked after. Standard rules include:

  • No smoking or vaping inside your property, on landings or in corridors
  • No candles or naked flames, including incense
  • Do not play loud music or use tools at unsocial hours
  • No children under 18 are allowed to stay overnight at the property
  • Permission is required for a guest to stay for more than 3 consecutive nights in any week
  • Parties are absolutely not OK and this means having no more than three guests at a time.
  • Guests can not be left unattended in Dot Dot Dot Properties
  • No pets in the property
  • Written permission required if you are planning a trip away for longer than 14 days

As part of your Property Guardianship Licence, we do regular unannounced visits to all properties to ensure the property is safe and secure as per our contractual obligations to the property owner and you the licensee. Don’t worry, we will always knock loudly before entering and leave a note to say that we have been.

Yes. Before we hand you the keys, you must agree to follow all of our rules and regulations. We will explain these to you at viewings as some are specific to the properties.

If you wish to move out, you must give 28 days’ notice in writing by emailing your Relationship Coordinator.

We will give you a minimum of 28 days’ notice once we have been informed that the property is to be returned to the owners. When this happens we always prioritise rehousing great guardians i.e. those who have complied with our policies and have at least completed the minimum volunteering requirement (16 hours per month). We cannot guarantee that we will always have properties available at the same price or in the same area.

Supporting volunteering is at the heart of everything Dot Dot Dot exists to do, and has been since day one. The world is full of people who choose to give their time to good causes just because they care about making the world fairer, better, cleaner, healthier or simply more fun, and many people’s lives would be harder and sadder without them. We exist to encourage and support more people to get involved in volunteering, and to make life easier for those who are already doing it.

To date, Dot Dot Dot guardians have collectively given over 160,000 hours of volunteering to good causes. That is the equivalent of a century of full-time work volunteered for charities big and small, contributing in hundreds of ways.

Volunteering not only has a positive impact on communities but also on the lives of people who undertake it – learning new skills, building new connections and finding a new focus. With time and money freed up by the reduced living costs involved in being a Dot Dot Dot guardian, you are able to give time to causes you care about.

When you sign up as a Dot Dot Dot guardian, you are agreeing to volunteer for at least 16 hours a month for a cause of your choice. This could include volunteering in a charity shop, community gardens, or mentoring a young person – just to name a few.

At the beginning of every month, we’ll email you a form where you’ll be asked for a summary of your volunteering in the last month. This helps us ensure everyone is completing their volunteering and enables us to share great volunteering stories. If you want to find out more about being a Dot Dot Dot Guardian take a look here, or hear from some of our current guardians in this video.

The socially conscious element at the heart of our approach at Dot Dot Dot is an important part of what attracts our kind, motivated and community-minded Dot Dot Dot Property Guardians. We understand that volunteering can often feel daunting when you’re first starting out, so if you’re eager to do good but feel unsure in your pursuit of opportunities, you can find some great places to get started here.

This depends on the size of the property. Most of our guardians share with other guardians, but we do also get one bedroom properties for individuals or couples.

At Dot Dot Dot we love all creatures great and small, however, as building security is paramount as part of a Property Guardianship, we feel that our properties are unsuitable for pets, and as such we do not allow pets in our properties under any circumstances.

At Dot Dot Dot, we don’t allow anyone under 18 to live in our properties. Property guardians need to be ready to move house with 28 days’ notice whenever a property owner would like their building back, and this is much harder for children who need continuity and access to the same schools, nurseries, GPs etc than it is for flexible, independent adults.

Yes but they will need to go through our application process too and be able to pay their own deposit and fees. There is a discount for couples, but fees are not halved.

It’s fine to have a couple of friends over now and then or to have a partner staying over occasionally.

Parties are absolutely not OK and this means having no more than three guests at a time.

We do not have a blanket response to applications from people on benefits. What is important for us is that our property guardians have a reliable source of funds in order to cover the licence fee and living costs.

However, we are transparent that our approach is not appropriate for everyone. We published a blog post on our website in 2017 entitled “Under the hood: who can be a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot?”, which goes into more detail on this point.

We are often unable to provide housing to people who exclusively rely on benefits in order to pay their licence fee, because there is the potential for timeframes of people’s housing with us to be much quicker and shorter than the benefit system can facilitate. In a time of housing shortage, we understand that this is not a perfect position. We are working with specialist providers in order to improve the journey for people in housing need to become Dot Dot Dot guardians and we will share more information when these partnerships are ready.

Yes, definitely. People who are up for living in a shared flat or house or sharing facilities in a large building will be invited to view a wider range of properties across the country and these are by far our most affordable options.

Don’t be nervous about meeting people; we’ll get you chatting to potential housemates at viewings and encourage you to follow up with those who you thought you’d be up for living with.

All of our Dot Dot Dot guardians go through the same application and checks process and generally have common ground because they’ve opted in to our approach and way of living. As Kit in Croydon put it, “Once I knew that everyone was up for 16 hours of volunteering a month, I felt pretty confident they’d be great, considerate housemates, and they are.”

There are a few steps we need you to go through in order to become a property guardian, but if you are flexible and proactive we can move you in in under a week, depending on the property.

  1. The first step is to fill out this quiz. If being a Dot Dot Dot guardian is right for you, we will invite you to fill out an application form.
  2. Fill out the online application form. This form asks a bit more about you, your housing preferences, employment, finances and your plans and interests around volunteering. You only need to apply once – you do not need to apply for every property you are interested in.
  3. If your application is successful, we will email you each week with our available properties and upcoming viewings. Just follow the links in the email to book yourself onto the viewings.
  4. Once you have attended a viewing and have been shown around by one of our team, you will have an opportunity to formally express your interest in the property. Simply leave your name and your availability for a call, and we will get back to you the next working day.
  5. The next step is to have a matching call. This is a 20 minute call with a member of the team and a chance to confirm that you are right for Dot Dot Dot, and that we are right for you.
  6. If this is successful, we will start the vetting process. You will need to pay your refundable security payment and first month fees and provide us with proof of ID, proof of previous address and proof of income. We will also contact your references.
  7. The last step is to have a sign-up meeting in our office where we will go through the licence agreement (the housing contract you will sign with Dot Dot Dot), our guardian handbook and hand you the keys.

If you wish to end your Dot Dot Dot guardianship, you can activate the 28 day notice period at any time by emailing your Relationship Coordinator. Once activated you will need to ensure you have vacated the property along with all of your belongings within the 28 days given.

Most of our properties are flats but we do have some more unusual commercial spaces which have included offices and an old GP’s surgery. Take a look at our current properties to see the types that we have available.

All of our properties are safe to live in, at least meet (and often exceed) minimum property standard and will have running water and electricity but some of them will need a little cosmetic love. They sometimes require a lick of paint, a good clean or a new floor covering, and we can give you tips on how to do this cheaply. We are always clear about the specific condition of each property. Our policy is to allow guardians to do this kind of cosmetic work themselves rather than doing it for them because this keeps prices down and lets guardians put their own stamp on their homes.

In most of our properties, yes, as long as you don’t make any structural changes. Painting and putting up shelves is great, and you have the freedom to be creative. Take a look at these blogs where guardians have made their space a home.

We protect properties for varying lengths of time, but typically our properties are available for 3-8 months. We rarely take on properties that are likely to be available for less than three months, and guardians can sometimes stay in properties for more than a year. However, as the notice is 28 days, we can only guarantee the property will be available for 28 days at any time.

Property Owner FAQs

Property guardianship is the only void security option which is simultaneously cost-effective, reliable and flexible. Many property owners therefore choose it to manage their voids while avoiding the cost associated with manned security guarding, and avoiding boarding up a property and signposting that it is empty and neglected.

The model works because property guardians bring life to a building. Through their occupation, they deter crime and anti-social behaviour, and act as an extra pair of eyes and ears to report any issues immediately. Working with Dot Dot Dot also reduces or eliminates the bills associated with a property – we usually cover council tax and utilities costs, and may be able to mitigate business rates.. Property owners receive vacant possession with 30 days’ notice.

In addition, best use is made of the property during void periods, increasing the supply of housing, and with Dot Dot Dot’s model homes are allocated to people who want to use their time and energy to volunteer, giving owners the opportunity to support good causes through the use of their buildings.

Dot Dot Dot stands for property guardianship done well – this means making sure we deliver a great service to everyone we work with – property owners, property guardians and local stakeholders alike.

We are the only social enterprise in the property guardian market. This means that we exist to make a positive difference in the world. Our focus on social impact and quality of service are what set us apart.

At Dot Dot Dot we manage residential and non-residential properties which can be brought up to our standards for occupation by guardians. All properties must have electrical and gas safety certificates (if applicable), must be secure and water-tight and must be fire safe for residential occupation. We can commission works to bring properties up to these standards where it is cost-effective to do so. We have housed guardians in family houses, blocks of flats, care homes, offices, health facilities, pubs and even a castle!

Dot Dot Dot works with property owners on a case-by-case basis, and our proposals are always bespoke. The charging structure will be based on the size of the property, the works needed to bring it up to a safely habitable standard, and the property’s location. In most cases our work with property owners is at least cost-neutral for them, and will always be significantly less than any hard security option.