Guardian Handbook

Welcome to Dot Dot Dot!

Congratulations on becoming a property guardian with us. 

Being a guardian is different to renting in the private sector and you may have questions about how it works. This handbook provides information on your licence agreement, moving in, volunteering, reporting repairs, guardian rules, what to do when you move on, and who to contact when you need advice or support.

Moving into your property

Moving into your new property as a guardian is exciting for you and us. 

Once you’ve had your sign-up meeting with us and received your keys, there are some other steps to follow:

Step 1  Set up your direct debit

Please set up a direct debit with your bank to pay your monthly licence fees. We will provide the link in the sign up meeting

Step 2 Collect your keys

In the sign-up meeting we’ll confirm a plan for you to collect the keys from our office. You will need to bring any documents that we did not check in/before the sign-up meeting and your ID in order to complete our ‘right to rent’ checks.

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

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

Step 3 Set up your utilities and/or council tax accounts

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 your relationship coordinator. 

Here’s an example of how you’d need to get your gas bill set up:

  • To find out which energy company provides gas to the property, call the gas meter helpline on 0870 608 1524.
  • Note the serial number and current reading from the gas meter and keep this safe in case your chosen gas supplier needs it.
  • To register an account at your new address, call the relevant energy supplier. They will remove any debt that may be on the account and allow you to set up a new account using your details. You can also opt to choose a different energy supplier.
  • 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 your space

Our properties are often blank canvases and in most 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. There are lots of places to get hold of second-hand items of furniture, decorating equipment and paint, such as Freecycle, Gumtree, NextDoor and eBay.

If you would like to get creative and make your space feel homely, please email your relationship coordinator first to check in with us. We ask that you don’t make any alterations to walls or the structure of the building.

Find us, and fellow guardians, on social media

Follow us on Instagram to discover some great guardian stories, and ideas for volunteering. You can also join the Dot Dot Dot property guardians Facebook group, where you can chat to fellow guardians across all of the properties we manage.

Plan your volunteering

If you haven’t already got a few ideas in mind, begin thinking about what you are going to do for your volunteering. Read through the volunteering section below for more details and ideas. 

Your licence agreement and what it covers

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. The licence you sign is the legal basis of your relationship with Dot Dot Dot. 

Tenancy vs guardianship

Being a property guardian is not the same as being a tenant. The properties we manage are operated under a licence agreement as they are not available as tenancies. Guardians occupy them primarily for security and as licence holders. The properties will meet minimum property standards and you will need to make periodic licence fee payments on time.

Being a licence holder has other key features that are different to being a tenant including:

Non-exclusive possession

Guardians do not have exclusive possession of the properties they live in. This means 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 to ensure that issues are addressed swiftly. Our inspection visits also mean that you’ll have regular in-person contact with Dot Dot Dot to raise any issues or queries you might have. Don’t worry, we’ll always knock loudly before entering and leave a note to say we have visited.

Non-exclusive possession also means that in some of our properties, guardians may have to share spaces such as kitchens and living rooms. Guardians in communal properties do not have exclusive access to spaces such as these.

A 28-day notice period

As property guardianship is security based and offered as an interim measure by the property owners, we generally need to hand our properties back to the owners at short notice. At such times you will be given 28 days’ notice to find alternative accommodation and move out. In some cases Dot Dot Dot can offer alternative accommodation options at some of its other properties, but this can not be guaranteed. 

The short notice period is a flexible arrangement for both guardians and Dot Dot Dot. 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’.

Rules and regulations

As a Dot Dot Dot guardian you will need to follow more rules than you are used to in a private tenancy. These include limitations on numbers of guests, no pets and avoiding the use of candles. Read our full list of guardian rules. In some cases there are additional specific rules or requirements depending on the property. You will learn more about this at your sign-up meeting.

Reporting property issues

As part of your licence agreement, you are required to look after the property and report any issues, whether to do with maintenance or anti-social behaviour.

Having a move-on plan

You need to have a move-on plan in the event you are asked to move out with 28 days’ notice. The plan will need to be periodically reviewed and updated. 

Repairs

At Dot Dot Dot, we pride ourselves on maintaining the properties where our guardians stay to a high standard (you can read more about how we do this on our property guardianship standards webpage).

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 is more complicated and requires multiple access or the sourcing of parts, we ask for your cooperation and patience while we get it completed.

If you identify an issue with the building or property where you are staying, please act quickly to report it. As a guardian you have a responsibility for looking after the building where you are staying.

We do not repair cosmetic issues or guarantee the replacement of certain facilities if you have suitable alternatives available, for example, showers or baths. 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 in a communal property depending on the nature of the repair.

If you encounter a situation where you are in danger or life is at risk, exit the property as swiftly as possible and call 999. For example, in the case of fire (we do not have fire extinguishers as standard in our buildings) or a gas leak.

Otherwise, we ask that you follow our step-by-step guide to identifying an issue with your property.

The issue is small and I can solve it myself.

For example: the alarms are out of battery; the radiators need bleeding; there is mould on the wall; the boiler needs resetting; there’s a dripping tap, keys need to be replaced, or the sink is blocked.

Step 1: Try to fix it

We encourage you to be ‘hands-on’ and have a go at sorting the problem yourself before contacting us.

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

Write down when you first noticed the issue, 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

  • Ring the Dot Dot Dot office between 10am and 6pm, Monday to Friday on 020 3005 2457

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

In general, we prioritise safety critical repairs (e.g. those relating to fire risks) and so non-safety critical repairs may be responded to at a slower pace depending on the availability of contractors. 

Step 3: Support contractor access

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

We 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.

For example: there’s a serious electrical fault; gas leak; uncontrollable water leak; damage to the structure of the property compromising its integrity or guardian safety.

Step 1: Act fast to identify the issue and choose the correct course of action:

  • If you have lost power for several hours check whether the outage is listed online.
  • If you have a dangerous electrical fault, leave the property first and then call the UK Power Network on 0800 316 3105, and then Dot Dot Dot on the numbers below
  • If you have a dangerous gas fault, leave the property first and then call the gas helpline on 0800 111 999 and then Dot Dot Dot on the numbers 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

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. 

Lost keys and replacements

If you lose your keys during our office hours, please contact your relationship coordinator immediately. We will arrange for new keys, but this will be at your own cost. If you lose your keys out of hours (including at the weekend), you will need to wait until the following day/Monday when the office is open to get another key. Alternatively, you can get the locks changed yourself and give us a spare set.

Reporting anti-social behaviour (ASB) and criminal activity

Understanding ASB

ASB covers a wide range of unacceptable activity that causes harm to an individual, to the community or to the environment. ASB or criminal activity can sometimes be a feature of the areas in which Dot Dot Dot manages properties. Reporting it can help make the area better for guardians, neighbours and the wider community and is one of the positive contributions you can make to the area where you live.

ASB 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. 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.

  • Reporting ASB to the police

Always act if you see any anti-social behaviour or suspected criminal activity.

999 should only be used in emergencies i.e when a crime is currently being committed. 

101 is the non-emergency number for the police; use this number for raising any concerns about ASB, or any other community safety issues.

  • Reporting ASB to Dot Dot Dot

After you have reported it to the police, please send an email to your relationship coordinator to let them know what happened and provide the computer-aided dispatch number (CAD) 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.

Volunteering

Dot Dot Dot is a social enterprise. This means we are in business to address social needs and have a commitment to making communities safer and stronger. 

Volunteering is a key part of your Dot Dot Dot guardianship and licence agreement, and a great way of creating a positive social impact in your new community. Many guardians find it a transformative experience personally and an opportunity to learn, develop skills and meet great people. 

Our detailed Volunteering Handbook has all of the information you need to get started but below, you’ll find a brief overview of your responsibilities, volunteering advice, and the support we provide.

Your volunteering responsibilities

As a Dot Dot Dot guardian, you commit to:

  • Volunteering for 16 hours a month for a good cause of your choice. Of course you may choose to do more than this or to volunteer for more than one cause.
  • Filling out a monthly online Volunteer Report Form to let us know about the volunteering you undertook in the previous month. You will receive this by email on the 25th of the month and it needs to be completed at the latest by the 5th of the following month.
  • Communicating with us openly if you are struggling to find volunteering opportunities or are not able to complete 16 hours for any reason. 

We love reading the forms that our guardians submit each month and hearing about their volunteering efforts. We regularly celebrate great guardian volunteering stories! 

Getting started with volunteering

We understand that it can sometimes take up to three months to get your volunteering established and up to 16 hours per month. We will still ask you to complete the form from the first month of your guardianship onwards with any hours you have done, and your plans to reach at least 16 hours the following month. Filling out the form enables us to accurately record our guardians’ social impact. 

Different types of volunteering

There are lots of different ways to volunteer and you can find more information on this in our Volunteering Handbook. As a guide, we ask that your volunteering aligns with a charitable purpose as defined in the Charities Act in 2011. A list of relevant purposes can be found on the Charity Commission page of the government website GOV.UK

What does not count as volunteering:

  • Anything that’s paid! Whether in cash or kind
  • Helping out family and / or friends
  • Political campaigning

Dot Dot Dot volunteering support

We keep a list of volunteering opportunities up-to-date which will provide you with lots of ideas.

We also have a volunteering assistant at Dot Dot Dot who can help you to find opportunities if you are struggling. Get in touch by emailing lea.gimpel-lichtarz@dotdotdotproperty.com

Share your volunteering stories

Being able to tell great stories about our social impact means that more people know about what we do at Dot Dot Dot and can benefit from it – guardians, voluntary organisations, and communities. Do let us know if you would be happy for us to highlight the great work you have been doing on our social media channels. 

If you’d like to share your story, just drop your relationship coordinator an email with your news and we’ll go from there.

If your circumstances change

During your guardianship your circumstances may change. 

If you want your partner or friend to move into the property with you as a guardian

Your friend or partner will need to go through the guardian application process in the same way that you did. Please contact your relationship coordinator to let them know this is something you are thinking about. Your friend or partner can apply online. 

Your financial situation 

If your financial situation changes, contact your relationship coordinator as soon as possible to discuss the potential impact on your guardianship and next steps.

Pregnancy

Unfortunately we can’t house children under 18. If you become pregnant while you are a guardian with us, please contact your relationship coordinator. We will work with you to find a mutually manageable notice period of at least 28 days . You will need to find alternative and suitable housing before the baby is born. 

Pets

Pets are not allowed in our properties under any circumstances, including therapy animals.

Moving on from Dot Dot Dot

As a property guardian with us, you’ll receive 28 days’ notice when we need to take your property back. This goes both ways – you can give Dot Dot Dot 28 days’ notice if you would like to move out. This would be done with a formal document called a ‘Notice to Quit’.

In some cases Dot Dot Dot can offer alternative housing in another one of our properties. 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. 

The process for moving out

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 days notice will be given, however some guardians choose to move out before the 28 days is up.

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. This is called a ‘Notice to Quit’.

Step 2 Confirm receipt of Notice to Quit

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

Step 3 Look at other property options with Dot Dot Dot

Where Dot Dot Dot is giving notice we may be able to rehouse you at another one of our properties. However, this cannot be guaranteed. If you are rehoused in another Dot Dot Dot property, the majority of the following steps still apply.

Step 4 Book a time to hand back your keys

The date for handing back your keys will be your final date in the property, and within 28 days of receipt of the notice to quit. This is often at the property, but occasionally we may ask you to return the keys to the  Dot Dot Dot office in Stratford, east London. 

Step 5 Action your ‘move-on plan’

Find and/or begin to move to your new accommodation, taking your belongings with you.

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 your account). Send us the details of the bank account to which you would like us to pay your security deposit, via an online form we send to you.

Step 8 Fill in your last Volunteer Report Form

Step 9 Sign a Surrender Document

We will send you a surrender document. Please sign and return this to us, thereby 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 remove all your belongings. We may have to charge you for clearance if not. If you are unable to take your belongings with you, you can try to sell things (e.g. on Gumtree), list them on sites such as Freecycle, 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.

Your move-on plan

When you signed up to be a guardian, you gave us your move-on plan for when you leave one of our properties. 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. 

Remember that if you are given notice by Dot Dot Dot, we cannot guarantee alternative accommodation in another of our properties. Therefore, you need to be prepared to move to alternative accommodation that is not with Dot Dot Dot. In all cases this would come with at least 28 days’ notice.

Keeping your move-on plan up-to-date

We regularly ask all guardians to update their move-on plan and tell us what it is. In cases where guardians need to move on and do not have an up-to-date plan in place, we have found that challenges arise. You need to have a clear plan and housing option in place throughout your guardianship, should you be given 28 days’ notice. 

When creating your plan, think through 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?

Complaints procedure

If you have any issues or complaints you would like to raise with us, please refer to our complaints policy on our website.

Dot Dot Dot is 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. For example, there is an escalated complaints procedure if you are unhappy with how Dot Dot Dot has handled your complaint.

Contacting us

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. 

If you have a general query,  please contact the team at hello@dotdotdotproperty.com.

If you have a specific question about your licence or your property, please contact your relationship coordinator.