Find out more about guardianship
“We offer great people affordable housing”
Dot Dot Dot is an award winning social enterprise that places people who do great volunteering to live as property guardians in buildings that would otherwise be empty. This page walks you through what being a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot is all about.
Please read all the information carefully.
What is a property guardian?
Property guardianship brings buildings that would otherwise stand empty back into use as housing.
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. This provides security to the property owner while the building is empty, and provides cost effective housing for the guardians living there. This model is growing and affordable.
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.
What is different about Dot Dot Dot?
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. There are several property guardian organisations out there, but we’re the only one with a social focus.
All our property guardians volunteer for 16 hours a month for a charity of their choice, and many do a lot more than this. This can be something you do already or something you’ve 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 feel a strong connection to each other. 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 Managers 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 that consistency, predictability and transparency are key to providing an excellent property guardian service. In 2016 we published the standards we work to when providing housing to guardians.
Volunteering can seem like a surprising add-on to the list of requirements for Dot Dot Dot property guardians, however it is at the heart of our approach:
- As a social enterprise, part of our mission is to create social value through the way we work. Supporting the volunteering efforts of our guardians is the way we do that.
- People who consistently volunteer for charities and community groups are by definition conscientious, good people. This means they are particularly suited to being property guardians, as they will look out for the building and their neighbours.
- Volunteering is not just for saints. It has a significant positive difference 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.
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 social impact and would like cheaper housing.
Who can be a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot?
We have housed over 1000 property guardians including designers, students, teachers, cleaners, magazine editors, librarians, support workers, engineers, zookeepers, midwives, DJ’s and dancers: all sorts of people become property guardians with us.
People enjoy the experience for different reasons too, whether that’s because it opens up a new way of living for them, or it makes their existing lifestyle easier and more affordable.
To be a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot –
- You must be aged 18 or older.
- You must not be looking to live with any children under 18.
- You must not be looking to live with any pets.
- You must have a reliable source of funds for your licence fee.
- You must not be 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 cheaper accommodation, are flexible about your needs and keen to be part of a brilliant community of guardians and neighbours, then being a Dot Dot Dot property guardian could be for you.
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.
What else do I need to know?
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 deposit, your monthly licence fee and your utility bills and council tax.
Each guardian will need to pay a security deposit 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 deposit will be £500 x 12 ÷ 52 x 5 = £576.92.
- if the fee is £700, then the deposit 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 deposit calculation.
We return deposits 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 in these cases, we have a consistent record of returning deposits in full without any deductions.
We have no administration or sign up fees.
Each guardian will need to pay a monthly licence fee, which varies according to location, size and amenities.
Utilities and council tax
In most cases, it is 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 Dot Dot Dot’s complaints process does not resolve the situation satisfactorily.
The 28 days notice goes both ways, you can give us notice if your situation changes and you need to move on.
Where can I live with Dot Dot dot?
We house guardians across England. We currently have availability in:
Click here to see full listing of areas we work in
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 and will have running water and electricity but some of them will need a little care and attention. 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.
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.
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.
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.