Guardian Handbook

Introduction

Giving your purpose a home.

Dot Dot Dot exists to provide housing that makes it easier for people to do more good. That is why we only work with property guardians who want to support good causes they care about. By providing you with well-managed and affordable homes, we can help you avoid some of the challenges that come with finding a place to live. So you can spend more of your time and energy giving back.

Being a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot is a bit different to being a tenant or a home-owner and you may have questions about how it works. This handbook goes through the most important information you need as a guardian and should be your first point of call if you need some advice.

We’re always keen to hear from our guardians about their experience so that we can do our best to improve, and we’re always here to answer your questions. To get in contact with general queries you can always contact the team at hello@dotdotdotproperty.com or if you have a specific question about your licence or your property you can always contact your Relationship Coordinator (who you will have met in your sign-up meeting).

What is a property guardian?

A property guardian is someone who has entered into a licence agreement to live in a building or part of a building that would otherwise be empty for the primary purpose of securing and safeguarding the property.

It’s not the same as being a tenant. Property guardians are in fact licence holders. Being a licence holder has several key features including:

Flexibility

Dot Dot Dot sometimes has to hand its properties back to their owners at short notice. At such times guardians will be given 28 days’ notice to find alternative accommodation. In some cases (but not all) Dot Dot Dot can provide alternative options in its portfolio. On the flip side, this works both ways. Guardians can give Dot Dot Dot 28 days’ notice if they would like to move on. For more information on this see the section on “Moving On”

Non-exclusive possession

This means that guardians may have to share communal spaces with other guardians and that Dot Dot Dot cannot be excluded or prevented from entering the building or any part of the building. In practice, Dot Dot Dot exercises this right with at least monthly, unannounced inspections. Regular inspections ensure that Dot Dot Dot can address issues swiftly and also means guardians have regular in-person contact with Dot Dot Dot to raise any issues or queries they have.

Rules and regulations

As a Dot Dot Dot guardian you may have to follow more rules than you are used to, such as limitations on numbers of guests and avoiding the use of candles. A full list of our general rules is found here. In some cases there are additional specific rules or requirements depending on the property.

Volunteering

As a Dot Dot Dot guardian you commit to volunteering a minimum of 16 hours per month for a good cause of your choice. Not only does this help the causes that you support, but many guardians find the experience positive and even transformative.

These differences are key to making the Dot Dot Dot model work. Without these features, we would not be able to provide the affordable, well-managed homes we do.

For more detail on the specifics of your guardianship arrangement see the section below on “Your Licence”

What makes a great Dot Dot Dot guardian?

We are proud to house a wide range of people from varying backgrounds. While our Guardians may come from different walks of life they all share some similar characteristics:

Hands-on

We expect guardians to take care of the properties they occupy. All of our buildings are safe to live in, but some properties may have quirks and/or issues may surface through time. Guardians can solve many of those issues for themselves, although we will work with you to tackle most larger jobs. For more information on repairs see below.

Communicative

We treat our guardians with politeness and respect, and we expect the same from our guardians. We ask that you return our calls or messages within 24 hours, and we will do the same for you.

Responsible

We expect guardians to take their role seriously, to take a proactive and responsible approach to their property and its security, and to be proud to be a part of a community that gives back.

Community-minded

We look for guardians that care about people and the world around them. We expect guardians to care for their home and about their housemates, to be a positive presence in their neighbourhood, and to make a wider contribution through volunteering.

By acting this way you will instil positive change within both your community and yourself. See some testimonials from our guardians on how being part of the Dot dot dot community has changed their lives:

"If you had looked at me at the time when I left Reading you wouldn’t have believed it’s the same person. I’ve improved, grown into my thoughts and I broke the barriers to get out of that (bad) headspace." A Dot Dot Dot guardian "It’s very rewarding to give and receive help. It’s like you have a place in the universe and matter. That’s a good thing." A Dot Dot Dot guardian

Key topic - Moving into your new home

Moving into your new property as a guardian is exciting for you and us. However, we know it can sometimes feel demanding.

Here is the full process for signing-up and moving in as a guardian once you have attended a viewing and we’ve made you an offer. There are then some top tips for getting started and settling in.

Step 1 -> Share documents before you sign up

Before we confirm your move-in and before the sign-up meeting, you need to need to:

  • Pay a security payment and part of your initial licence fee. We will share an invoice with you in advance
  • Provide a character and a personal reference if you have not done so already
  • Upload paperwork including bank statements, a proof of address and copy of your passport to a link we will provide

Step 2 -> Sign-up meeting

In this meeting we’ll go through this handbook, the key features of the property you’ll be moving into and your licence agreement. We’ll also answer any questions you may have.

If you and Dot Dot Dot are happy with everything covered in the meeting, we will sign your licence agreement.

Step 3 -> Set up your direct debit

Set up a direct debit to pay monthly licence fees.

Step 4 -> Collect your keys

In the sign-up meeting we’ll confirm a plan for you to collect the keys from our office. You may need to bring any documents that we did not check in/before the sign-up meeting..

We will also take a photo of you for our records.

After collecting your keys, you should head straight to your property and immediately move-in.

Step 5 -> Set up your utilities and/or council tax

Check what bills you are responsible for and set up your accounts. Information on what bills you are responsible for will be in your licence agreement. If you’re unsure, just check with us and or ask your Relationship Coordinator. For some specific instructions about different utilities and council tax please see the following table:

Gas

Call the gas meter helpline on 0870 608 1524
To find out which energy company provides gas to the property.
Note the Serial Number and current reading from the gas meter
Keep this safe in case your chosen gas supplier needs it.
Call the relevant energy supplier
To register an account at your new address. They will remove any debt that may be on the account and allow you to set up a new account using your details.
Choose your own energy supplier
If you want to choose a different energy supplier, you are now able to do so.
Contact Dot Dot Dot’s office to book a recommission for your boiler (if relevant - you’ll be told about this during sign-up)
This cannot be done until your new gas account has been set up. This applies to some properties where boilers are switched off for safety reasons. An engineer will come to get it back on.
Is the meter pay as you go?
The utility company will tell you where your closest retailer is for you to top up the card. They may ask you to collect a new gas card from here.

Step 6 -> Settle in!

There’s lots you can do to make your new home feel comfortable. How about you…

Get to know your neighbours

One of the great things about being a Dot Dot Dot guardian is getting to know fellow guardians and people in the local community. After you have moved in, be proactive and introduce yourself to people living around you.

Decorate and personalise

Our properties are often blank canvases and in most properties you will be able to paint and put your own stamp on it. Our properties also come unfurnished giving you the opportunity to find things you like. We encourage our guardians to use Freecycle, Gumtree and eBay to get secondhand items of furniture, decorating equipment and paint. We encourage you to get creative and make your space feel homely but make sure you check with us first and don’t make any alterations to walls or the structure of the building.

Plan your volunteering

Begin thinking about, if you don’t know already, what you are going to do for your volunteering. See the volunteering section below for more details and ideas.

Key topic - Repairs

At Dot Dot Dot, we pride ourselves on maintaining the properties where our guardians stay to a high standard. We work to a clear safety standard for all our buildings and publicise our approach to maintaining quality on our website here.

This means that if anything goes wrong with your gas, electricity or running hot or cold water, we will do our best to fix these in a timely manner. Usually this is faster than a private landlord. However, if the repair is over a weekend, evening or a more complicated repair requiring multiple access or sourcing of parts, we ask for your cooperation and patience whilst we get repairs completed.

If you identify an issue with the building or property where you are staying then don’t just leave it. As a guardian you have a responsibility for looking after the building where you are staying.

Follow these steps when identifying an issue with your property.

However, if there is a situation where guardians are in danger or life is at risk, simply exit the property as swiftly as possible and call 999. This is for example in the case of fire as we do not have fire extinguishers as standard in our buildings.

The issue is small and I can solve it myself.

For example: the alarms are out of battery, the radiators need bleeding, there’s mould on the wall, the boiler needs re-setting, there’s a dripping tap, the sink is blocked or similar.

The issue is too big for me to fix myself, and I need Dot Dot Dot support.

For example: there’s a faulty door, a faulty light, a broken stair, crack in a wall, or a faulty shower unit.

The issue is urgent or an emergency and I need to take immediate action.

There’s a serious electrical fault, gas leak, uncontrollable water leak, damage to the structure of the property compromising its integrity or guardian safety, for example.

The issue is small and I can solve it myself.

For example: the alarms are out of battery, the radiators need bleeding, there’s mould on the wall, the boiler needs re-setting, there’s a dripping tap, the sink is blocked or similar.

Step 1: Try and fix it

We encourage you to be ‘hands-on’ and have a go at sorting it yourself before contacting us if you can’t fix it.

In general, we prioritise safety critical repairs (e.g. those relating to fire risks) and non-safety critical repairs may be responded to at a slower pace depending on the availability of contractors. We generally do not repair cosmetic issues or guarantee the replacement of certain facilities if you have suitable alternatives available. We won’t necessarily cover equipment or facilities that were in your property when you moved in, but we may replace laundry or cooking facilities that we provided depending on the nature of the repair.

Step 2: Contact us if you can’t

Move to the next column if you can’t fix it

The issue is too big for me to fix myself, and I need Dot Dot Dot support.

For example: there’s a faulty door, a faulty light, a broken stair, crack in a wall, or a faulty shower unit.

Step 1: Collect some information

Collect information on the issue including when you first noticed it, which bits of the property it affects, and any steps you have taken to try and correct it.

Take photos where possible.

Step 2: Contact us by email or phone

You can either

Or

  • Ring the office between 10am and 6pm Monday to Friday on 02030052457

We may ask for more information where required and may suggest some extra steps you can try yourself to fix the issue.

Step 3: Support contractor access

Dot Dot Dot will manage a contractor on your behalf to fix the issue where appropriate.

We only ask that you are present to let a contractor in at an arranged time and update us on the progress of work.

The issue is urgent or an emergency and I need to take immediate action.

There’s a serious electrical fault, gas leak, uncontrollable water leak, damage to the structure of the property compromising its integrity or guardian safety, for example.

Step 1: Act fast depending following specific steps depending on the issue

Check our instructions for specific issues:

  • If you have lost power for several hours check is the outage listed here
  • If you have a dangerous electrical fault, leave the property first then call the UK Power Network on 08003163105 and then us on numbers below
  • If you have a dangerous gas fault, leave the property first then call the gas helpline on 0800111999 and then us on the number below
  • If you notice damage rendering the property structurally unsound, leave the property first before contacting us
  • If you have a prolonged water outage, check if it is listed on your supplier’s website before contacting us
  • If you notice damage to windows or doors compromising the security of the property, then leave the property if you feel unsafe

In all cases do not hesitate to contact the emergency services if you need to, before following the above steps or contacting Dot Dot Dot. For example, if you notice fire or danger.

In all cases when leaving the property due to identifying a serious issue do not stop to collect your belongings.

Step 2: Call us

You can either call

  • 02030052457 between 10am and 6pm, Monday to Friday
  • 03332470126, our out of hours numbers, outside of these hours

The out of hours phone number is monitored by staff – please leave a message with your name, phone number, property address and nature of the emergency and we will call you back. We treat any use of this number very seriously, so please be absolutely sure that your call is a genuine emergency before calling us. Always consider whether it can wait until the next time the office is open.

Step 3: Work with Dot Dot Dot

Dot Dot Dot will then work closely with you to manage the next steps and swift action.

In general, we prioritise safety critical repairs (e.g. those relating to fire risks) and non-safety critical repairs may be responded to at a slower pace depending on the availability of contractors. We generally do not repair cosmetic issues or guarantee the replacement of certain facilities if you have suitable alternatives available. We won’t necessarily cover equipment or facilities that were in your property when you moved in, but we may replace laundry or cooking facilities that we provided depending on the nature of the repair.

Key topic - ASB and criminal activity

Understanding ASB

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) or criminal activity can sometimes be a feature of the areas where Dot Dot Dot has buildings. Reporting it can help make things better for guardians, neighbours and the wider community and is one of the positive contributions guardians can make to an area where they live.

ASB covers a wide range of unacceptable activity that causes harm to an individual, to their community or to their environment. It could be an action by someone else that leaves you or others feeling alarmed, harassed or distressed. It also includes fear of crime or concern for public safety, public disorder or public nuisance. It covers a range of issues from violence and harassment to more everyday incidents like noisy dogs or rubbish dumping and some examples include:

  • Begging/Vagrancy
  • Noise
  • Street Drinking
  • Rowdy or Inconsiderate Behaviour
  • Rowdy/Nuisance Neighbours
  • Fireworks
  • Vehicle Abandoned (not stolen)
  • Vehicle Nuisance/inappropriate use
  • Littering/Drugs Paraphernalia
  • Animal Problems
  • Trespassing
  • Nuisance Calls
  • Prostitution-Related Activity

Reporting ASB

Part of your role as a property guardian is to keep an eye out for any ASB or criminal activity where you live and report it, as it can have a negative effect on the quality of life for those in the community.

When you identify ASB it’s important to report it to both the police and Dot Dot Dot

Report it to the police

Always call 101 or 999 if you see any anti-social behaviour or suspected criminal activity, have any concerns about it or any other community safety issues. 999 should only be used in emergencies i.e where a crime is currently being committed. 101 is the non-emergency number for the police.

Report it to Dot Dot Dot

After you have reported it to the police, please send an email to your Relationship Coordinator to let them know details of what happened providing the CAD (computer-aided dispatch) number the Police will give you. This will enable you/us to follow up on the call to understand if any action was taken.

When we know about ASB we can often do something about it. In some of our properties we have engaged local stakeholders and police forces to tackle and address repeated issues. It’s important to us you feel safe where you live.

Key topic - Volunteering

At Dot Dot Dot, we require you to do at least 16 hours a month of volunteering and then report it to us. As a social enterprise, we have a commitment to making communities safer and stronger. This is at the heart of everything we do and a key part of being a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot.

We are committed to supporting you to make a difference through your volunteering, in whatever shape or form it takes, and can often help you find something that works for you.

Many guardians find volunteering a transformative experience for themselves personally.

Choosing volunteering

We encourage guardians to find volunteering opportunities that are right for them, fit around their work and other commitments, and are for a cause, organisation or group that’s right for them.

"Doing volunteering as part of a guardianship motivates me to do more. It made me think about how to offer my services to the local community. " A Dot Dot Dot guardian "Before you might do volunteering out of guilt … whereas now I feel I’ve found something I really want to do, it’s making a big difference ... It’s a bonus really that I’m doing it for DDD as well." A Dot Dot Dot guardian

We only ask that it aligns with a charitable purpose as defined in the Charities Act in 2011. A list of relevant purposes is found here.

We send guardians ideas for volunteering every month in the volunteering handbook and the monthly volunteering newsletter with stories from our guardians and opportunities we have come across. However, you may also want to check out www.do-it.org.uk or https://reachvolunteering.org.uk for ideas in the meantime.

Many guardians often volunteer for multiple causes, so don’t feel like you need to only pick one.

In some of our buildings, there are opportunities for guardians to volunteer performing particular tasks related to the property (E.g. maintaining a garden), and we’ll let you know about these where appropriate.

We also ask that your volunteering makes a meaningful contribution to the cause. For a list of some of the things that generally and don’t count towards your volunteering hours:

What counts?
What does not count?
Training for the voluntary role
Searching for, applying for or interviewing for roles
Time spent in meetings relevant to the role
Any paid work
Blogging about volunteering
Travelling to or from your volunteering role
Any work that directly promotes volunteering to others
Helping out friends or family
Unpaid internships for a registered charity
Unpaid internships for anywhere that isn’t a registered charity
Campaigning for political parties
Any unpaid activity that results in ‘gifts in kind’
Training for sponsored events e.g marathons
Participating in organised events that raise funds or awareness for good causes will typically not count towards your volunteering

If you are undertaking activities that may fall outside these guidelines or you’re not sure, please do talk to us first.

Reporting volunteering

Every month we will email you a volunteer report form asking you to provide details on the volunteering you completed in the previous month, including details of the organisation or group you volunteered with, what you did, and any stories you would like to share with us.

We ask you to submit this before the 5th of the month so we can collect the data and follow-up where appropriate.

If you have not been able to complete 16 hours please let us know why and your plan to reach this level next time round. Note there is an exception to this in your first three months’ of being a guardian where you have time to ‘ramp-up’, however you should still fill out the form in this time detailing your search.

Volunteering 16 hours per month is included as part of our rules and regulations which form part of your licence agreement and therefore a requirement of you as a Dot Dot Dot guardian. We have an escalation policy if you do not report the required information.

If you have a longer story you would like to share or something to share outside of the timeline of the volunteering report, then do not hesitate to drop us an email at volunteeringstories@dotdotdotproperty.com.

If you have any issues completing the volunteering form please email hello@dotdotproperty.com.

Recognising guardian efforts

We regularly celebrate our guardian’s efforts and, with their consent, sharing their stories on social media or with property owners. For a look at some recent stories and to be inspired take a look at our social media:

https://www.instagram.com/dddproperty/
https://www.facebook.com/DotDotDotPropertyGuardians/

"During Lockdown I was furloughed from my job as a Fashion Designer.I wanted to make the most of this opportunity and to contribute to the fight against the Coronavirus. As soon as I heard about the ‘For the love of Scrubs’ campaign, I wanted to get involved. I studied Fashion Sportswear Design at The London College of Fashion and learned to pattern-cut and sew. Half of the challenge was making the scrubs quickly and getting them to the frontline as soon as possible. After waiting for 4 days for a scrubs pattern to arrive, I gave up and made my own pattern. Then I spent 4 days glued to my sewing machine to make the first 3 sets. Living at Booth House with like-minded individuals has been an immense source of inspiration and encouragement to me to volunteer and get involved." Jessica for The love of Scrubs - June 2020 | @jessforshawdesigns

Key topic - Your licence

When becoming a guardian with Dot Dot Dot you will sign a licence agreement. Do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions about this document. The licence is the legal basis of your relationship with Dot Dot Dot and without it Dot Dot Dot would not be able to provide the opportunities it does.

We aim to make our licences short and easy to understand. However, in short having a Dot Dot Dot licence means…

  • Exercising a right to occupy a property or space you could not as a tenant
  • Making periodic licence fee payments on time, noting we may have to make periodic adjustments
  • Having non-exclusive possession with inspections and, in some cases, shared communal space
  • Agreeing to 28 day’s notice to quit a property and/or request to move to a different part of or different property when Dot Dot Dot requires
  • Having and actively maintaining an up to date ‘move-on plan’
  • Following our ‘rules and regulations’
  • Committing to volunteering 16 hours per month for a good cause and reporting to Dot Dot Dot on this work
  • Looking after the occupied property and reporting any issues, as well as following any additional property-specific guidance, rules or requirements
  • Acknowledging and understanding your licence agreement itself

Some more information on what you can expect from Dot Dot Dot during your time as a guardian is provided here on our website.

If you have any questions about your licence please get in contact with your Relationship Coordinator.

Key topic - Moving on

As a property guardian, Dot Dot Dot will give you 28 days notice when we need to take your property back. When you signed up with DDD, you gave us your plan for when this happens.

A move-on plan covers where you would stay and how you would manage if Dot Dot Dot gave you notice to move out of the property where you are currently a guardian. This would be done with a formal document called a “Notice to Quit”. Remember you can also give Dot Dot Dot 28 days notice to move on when you like.

In some cases Dot Dot Dot can offer alternative housing in its portfolio. However, this is not always possible and depends on what is available. In these cases, where there are limited opportunities, we prioritise guardians who have followed our rules and done great volunteering. Therefore guardians need to be prepared to move-on to alternative accommodation not with Dot Dot Dot. In all cases this would come with at least 28 day’s notice.

We have found that where guardians do not have an up-to-date plan in place, they can run into challenges. 28 days of notice is sometimes not enough time to make an effective plan and see it through.

As a result, Dot Dot Dot regularly asks all guardians to keep their move-on plan up to date and tell Dot Dot Dot what it is. Dot Dot Dot provides a form to collect information on this, however before receiving that form you should give this some thought by thinking about the following questions:

  • Where would I go if I had to move on at short notice?
  • How would I move my possessions?
  • How would I manage my finances?
  • Who else would I need to involve to help me and when did I last speak to them about this?

You will have gone through these questions during the sign-up process.

When it comes to it, the process for moving out is as follows:

Step 1 -> Give notice

Either we give you notice or you give Dot Dot Dot notice of the need to leave the property. In all cases 28 day’s notice will be given, however in some cases guardians may move out before this.

In the case where Dot Dot Dot is giving notice we will generally contact you first by phone before issuing a formal notice by email.

Step 2 -> Confirm receipt of notice

You let us know you have received and understood the notice and we do the same in reverse.

Step 3 -> Look for other options in the Dot Dot Dot portfolio

Where Dot Dot Dot is giving notice we may be able to rehouse you within our portfolio, however this is not always possible. Where you are being rehoused somewhere else in the portfolio the majority of the following steps still apply.

Step 4 -> Book a time to hand back your keys

This date will be your final date in the property and will be within 28 days of receipt of notice. If you are in a London based property we will likely as you to come to the Dot Dot Dot office and if not we will arrange a time to meet you at the property.

Step 5 -> Action your ‘move-on plan’

Find and/or begin to move to your new accommodation, begin to move your belongings where possible.

Step 6 -> Contact utilities providers

Where you are responsible for utilities in your property (as shown on your licence), contact them to let them know you are moving out and cancel your accounts. Collect and/or request a copy of your final statements or take final meter readings.

Step 7 -> Send us your utilities statements and bank details

Where you are responsible for utilities in your property, send us a copy of your final utilities statements (or at least evidence that you have made a plan with the utilities provider to finalise). Send us the details of the bank account to which you would like us to pay your deposit. We will provide an online form for you to do this.

Step 8 -> Fill in your last VRF form

Step 9 -> Sign a Surrender Document

Sign and return your surrender document, that we will share with you formalising the end of your guardianship.

Step 10 -> Leave the property and hand back your keys

When you leave the property, it’s your responsibility to leave it tidy and to remove all your belongings. We may have to charge you for clearance if not. If you cannot take your stuff with you, then many guardians find they can either sell things (E.g. on gumtree), donate them to charity or give them to other guardians.

Once you have left for the last time, make sure you hand your keys back immediately. This might be in the Dot Dot Dot office or at the property with a Dot Dot Dot team member.

Step 11 -> Stay in touch

We’ll keep you on our mailing list, unless you ask to be removed, so you can hear about new opportunities and about Dot Dot Dot and guardian volunteering.

We’d also love for you to follow us on social media.

https://www.instagram.com/dddproperty/
https://www.facebook.com/DotDotDotPropertyGuardians/

Complaint procedure

If you have any issues or complaints you would like to raise with us, please refer to our complaints policy which is detailed here.

Dot Dot Dot is also a member of the Property Ombudsman scheme demonstrating our commitment to high standards, best practice and delivering a fair and transparent service. You may contact The Property Ombudsman for free and impartial advice. This, for example, gives you an escalated complaints procedure if you are unhappy with how Dot Dot Dot has handled your complaint. More information on our involvement with this scheme is found here.

Conclusion

If you have any questions about any of the information above, please do not hesitate to get in contact. The best way to do this is by emailing us hello@dotdotdotproperty.com.

Welcome to the Dot Dot Dot community!