Dot Dot Dot welcomes Sian Berry’s call to create a “level playing field” among property guardian companies by ensuring that all guardians receive good, safe homes
- The report highlights how useful property guardianship is for property guardians and owners of empty properties
- Dot Dot Dot echoes the report’s calls for higher standards across the property guardian sector, to ensure that guardians receive good homes.
- We believe that the London Assembly could have placed more emphasis on enforcement of existing laws, as this could be effective immediately in achieving the goals of the report.
Dot Dot Dot welcomes the publication of the London Assembly’s report on the property guardian industry, and its work to examine how the industry is working for Londoners in need of homes, and property owners with empty buildings to manage. We have already publicly shared our submission to the report, and we took committee members on a tour of one our properties (pictured above).
We wholeheartedly agree with the report that guardians need to be provided with good, safe homes and a source of redress when things go wrong. As the report says, we are one of only two property guardian companies which have published the standards we work to, so that guardians fully understand the basis on which they are housed, and can hold us to account if their expectations are not met.
Our determination to provide guardians with good homes, and our desire to encourage others in the industry to do likewise, is the primary reason behind the publication of a survey of guardians’ and property owners’ rights, ‘The Law on Property Guardianship’. Along with six other property guardian companies, we commissioned leading experts Giles Peaker and Michael Arden QC to create a document which is cited by the report as a step towards regulatory clarity.
These experts agreed that health and safety requirements apply to all buildings where Property Guardians live, whether they are commercial, residential or other types, and that fire safety, gas safety and any potential on-site hazards fall under the same regulations as tenants, and are enforceable by the same authorities. We believe that the London Assembly could have placed more emphasis on enforcement of existing laws, as this could be effective immediately in achieving the goals of the report.
However, we also welcome the call the report makes to ensure that any future regulation maintains the many benefits that property guardianship offers, and does not prevent guardian companies from getting properties into use which could provide homes for Londoners
The report makes very clear the important role property guardians play in taking care of buildings on behalf of owners while they are awaiting regeneration or sale. It highlights how effective this approach is in preventing anti-social behaviour and maintaining a pleasant neighbourhood, for example through the care guardians take of their gardens, as well as the significant financial savings it generates when compared with other security solutions.
It also makes clear that a wide range of Londoners become property guardians, people aged from their early twenties to their late 60s. Most guardians are working, but have a lower income than the average of those renting in the private rented sector. Guardianship makes sense for them financially, and many have a good experience.
However, the report highlights the experience of a minority of guardians, who are offered homes to live in which are cold, dirty or unsafe, who are treated unfairly, or who are not managed in line with laws such as that which guarantees them 28 days’ notice of the need to move house.
Dot Dot Dot would like to see this kind of poor practice eliminated from the industry, and we have shaped our own business around offering guardians a fair, straightforward deal on comfortable, safe homes. We agree with the London Assembly that the failure by some in the industry to do this damages the reputation of our sector as a whole, and makes it more difficult for companies with higher standards to compete.
At Dot Dot Dot, all the buildings we manage meet the same fire safety standards as privately rented homes would do, and where necessary we install new fire safety systems to ensure that this is the case. We are concerned that some in the industry depend on selling guardians expensive and potentially ineffective “fire safety packs” to achieve this, and we would like to see clarity among all providers that property guardian companies must take responsibility for fire safety.
We also welcome the report’s calls that fees to guardians should be banned. We have never charged guardians admin fees, whereas the report shows that the average guardian is charged £148 before moving into a home.
Katharine Hibbert, Dot Dot Dot’s founder, said:
“We agree with the London Assembly that our industry deserves scrutiny – as a growing number of people choose to become property guardians in the capital and elsewhere, it is important that they live in homes which are comfortable and safe, whilst escaping the spiralling costs of the private rented sector.
“I started Dot Dot Dot in 2011 for precisely this reason – because I saw the potential of property guardianship done well to use buildings which would otherwise be empty to create good, inexpensive homes.
“We are very proud that we have so far given thousands of Londoners homes that they have enjoyed living in, and which have enabled them to save money and to free up their time and energy to volunteer for good causes.
“We look forward to growing over the coming years to house even more people, in London and elsewhere, and we welcome the efforts of the London Assembly to push for an environment where companies with a focus on providing good homes to guardians can compete fairly.”