Hard security versus property guardianship, a comparison.

Break-ins, squatting, criminal activity, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, damage to the community… These are the risks you run when you rely on hard measures like Sitex to secure your empty buildings. The costs associated with resolving these kinds of issues can quickly spiral as more damage means more potential for illegal entry, and more illegal entry means more damage. This vicious cycle takes its toll not only on your budgets and plans, but also on the community. As the safety and aesthetics of the community diminish, so does the people’s trust in your organisation.

The limitations of hard security measures are becoming increasingly apparent – with the risks becoming more immediate and inevitable. This, amongst many other reasons such as the cost of living and housing crises, means that property guardianship offers a meaningful answer to the question of how to safeguard vacant properties.

Never was this more true than for a block of 20 flats in Queens Park. It had been secured thoroughly with hard measures such as Sitex, but was still subject to numerous break-ins, vandalism and squatting attempts. At a loss, Brent Council needed a more holistic and sustainable solution to secure the building, and in August 2023 approached us to find property guardians. The temporary residents we have since moved in provide round the clock security by living in and looking after the otherwise empty properties.

Comparing the two security options, hard measures like Sitex versus property guardianship, there are several reasons why the latter results in being the more advantageous solution in the short and long-term:

While hard security options are costly to install, inflexible and require ongoing maintenance and monitoring, guardians can be brought in for short or long term occupancy, and the need can evolve with your project.

Hard security is only partially successful in deterring trespassers, whereas property guardians proactively protect the building and local community and effectively prevent such criminality from occurring.

Cost effectiveness
There are legal liabilities to some hard security options like Sitex, meaning that if any harm comes to trespassers, property owners may be responsible for legal costs. With property guardianship, we ensure the safety and suitability of your building and our guardians throughout, and their very presence can prevent issues like water damage, pest infestations, or structural deterioration by promptly reporting repair issues.

Hard security has no mechanism for responding to imminent threats or emergencies. Guardians, however, can quickly raise or respond to any issues, mitigating risks and minimising potential damage to property.

For instance, a recent break in attempt to one of our current properties in Queen’s Park was swiftly reported by an existing Dot Dot Dot guardian in the community. Through their conscientious approach to safety and security, coupled with the strength of the relationships we build with all of our residents, we were able to take immediate action to prevent any further attempted ASB to the property.

Positive community impact
The negative impact of unsightly boarded- up buildings on the community is immeasurable. Local residents lose pride in their environments and faith in the institutions in charge of them. In exact opposite to this negative consequence, guardians foster safety, and revitalisation in communities – reducing crime rates and increasing safety levels for everyone. All our guardians volunteer for local causes every week, and have access to the Dot Dot Dot Community Events Fund so that they can run events that help and invigorate the local neighbourhood.

Our clients agree that the argument for hard security measures is clearly limited, while the idea of property guardianship only becomes more compelling.

“Our work with Dot Dot Dot to house property guardians in our empty buildings has resulted in significant financial savings. We no longer have to worry about paying council tax, utilities standing charges or costs incurred from hard security measures which were previously a drain on resources. There is also the hard-to-quantify but significant financial value of reducing antisocial behaviour. Alongside the financial value, we also recognise the social value that Dot Dot Dot guardians’ are delivering in the community through their volunteering with local causes and initiatives.”
– Ryan Collymore, Head of Service for Housing Property Services, LB Brent

The first temporary guardian was housed in South Kilburn in April 2021… and they will be joined by dozens more as the regeneration progresses. They have already volunteered over 1,500 hours to good causes, including at local community kitchens, Covid-19 vaccination centres and the Compass network which represents the LGBT+ community within the armed forces.

Councillor Eleanor Southwood

Cabinet member for housing and welfare reform, LB Brent

Your building being empty may feel like an immediate problem that just needs solving while you focus on the long term plan. But, that empty building could easily become a much bigger problem if your hard security measures fail. On the other hand, property guardians could make that empty building a real source of positivity for you, your investors, and the local community.