Supporting regeneration in Oxford, the city of dreaming spires

May 24, 2022

In July 2019, we agreed with A2Dominion, a housing association with a social purpose, to secure vacant flats on an estate in Oxford during a regeneration project. While A2Dominion were looking for property security, they also needed a strategic partner that would be sensitive and thoughtful when housing guardians, so as not to disrupt or cause difficulties for remaining residents still living on the estate. They also needed to be confident that the security provider would be a reliable steward of their assets and maintain open communication.

Our extensive experience of working within regeneration schemes and our ability to tailor our approach as required meant that we were well-prepared to be the strategic partner that A2Dominion needed.

Providing community-minded guardians to A2Dominion 

Dot Dot Dot’s stringent vetting process ensured that the guardians selected for Gibbs Crescent in Oxford, understood the importance of creating a good relationship with remaining estate residents. In fact, the idea of community and neighbourliness is built into our business model. All of our property guardians are required to volunteer for 16 hours a month for good causes. Guardians who volunteer demonstrate responsibility and commitment and ultimately, make good neighbours.

The (guardians) have made us aware of some anti-social behaviour on the estate and have helped to maintain a number of the small private gardens in the empty properties, even working alongside some of the remaining residents to grow their own vegetables.” 

A2 Dominion

In total, we secured 22 empty units and created inexpensive housing for 32 property guardians who volunteered to support remaining residents and good causes within the Oxford community.

Amplifying social impact across Oxford 

Our guardians volunteered at Gibbs Crescent itself, and with charities in Oxford. We also connected with an A2Dominion partner aligned with our own values, to provide more focused social value – Aspire Oxford. The charity and social enterprise aims to empower people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage, to find employment and housing.

Through their Employment Skills Training Programme, Dot Dot Dot employed their tradespeople regularly for property repairs and maintenance. These work opportunities, together with support from Aspire, enabled them to attain secure employment and housing in the long term.

Throughout the two and a half years that we housed property guardians in Oxford, our guardians collectively volunteered for over 8,211 hours for good causes, many of which were local to Oxford. This equates to £101,400* worth of social value. Former Dot Dot Dot guardian, Mori, volunteered with Oxford Community Action:

“Volunteering has provided me with a way to connect more with the people around me, and with people who wouldn’t normally be in my social sphere. A lot of people at Oxford Community Action come from immigrant, working class, BAME backgrounds which, as a middle-class, white student, are different to the people I met at university. It’s allowed me to bridge these gaps and form meaningful connections.”

Demonstrating flexibility throughout the pandemic

The emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020, which brought about new working from home practices and periods of self-isolation for staff, meant that redevelopment timelines for Gibbs Crescent were pushed back. Due to those adjustments, there were extra empty properties that needed to be secured with guardians.

To support A2Dominion we adapted our onboarding and property management process to ensure that we could quickly take on another phase of flats on the estate. In 2020, we started to house guardians in an extra five flats, bringing the total to 17. 

Our experience with the guardians has been very positive. Once the void properties have been accepted there is very little involvement from our side. Having the guardians in the void properties has given us the peace of mind we needed whilst preparing to redevelop the estate.”

A2 Dominion

A successful handback

When vacant possession was required, we were able to move all of our guardians out of Gibbs Crescent within 30 days. As part of a phased handback, we returned the first batch of properties in January 2022, and the second in March 2022, ensuring they were back with A2Dominion ahead of the next stage of their development.

The success of this contract is testament to our model and approach, and desire to deliver property guardianship with purpose.

Discover more about how we can sensitively support your regeneration scheme with thoughtful and community-focused property guardians who will volunteer for good causes.  

* The social value of volunteering presented uses the Living Wage at £12.35p/h, plus 30% for employee costs  (including National Insurance and pension contributions).

A guide to Kent’s county town, Maidstone

April 8, 2022

As one of Kent’s most enduring and historically significant towns, Maidstone is ever-evolving to balance new and diverse industries with its historic charm and characterful corners. Peacefully located on the banks of the river Medway, this county town is well worth exploring for its hubs of entertainment, long list of much loved bars and restaurants and leafy aesthetic. We recently visited the area for ourselves – and here are our best bits.

Activities and attractions

The river Medway runs through the heart of Maidstone, and so the town offers a surprising amount of water sports during the warmer months. You can hire out canoes and kayaks to explore the river and even travel out into the pastoral Kent countryside on a day trip.

Cycling is also a popular pastime, and there are plenty of quiet and traffic-free routes to take to discover the county town. You could also head to Go Ape to explore the forest canopies in the surrounding rural beauty spots via zip lines and high ropes.

The Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, residing within an Elizabethan manor house, hosts the most diverse mix of collections in Kent, and has won acclaim for its ethnographic and ancient artefacts. You’ll find  Anglo-saxon treasures, a chair that once belonged to Napoleon and even a 2,700 year old Egyptian Mummy.

The fossilised bones of ‘Iggy’ the Iguanadon (which can be found on the town’s coat of arms!) were discovered in 1834 during an excavation on Queen’s Road. As a historical find of international significance, they are now housed in the Natural History Museum in London, but a visit to Maidstone Museum will allow you to see a full cast of the bones.

Offering one of the most energetic and varied programmes of art performances in the south east, The Hazlitt Theatre offers drama, comedy and musical entertainment and local community theatre groups.

Where to shop and dine out 

Maidstone offers an eclectic mix of shopping and dining experiences. Amongst the recently refurbished Fremlin Walk, you can find a flagship House of Fraser, H&M, Flying Tiger and Waterstones, to name a few. On the other side of town you’ll find independent shopping experiences in and around the streets of The Royal Star Arcade and Market Buildings, with clothing and homeware boutique, Lottie’s Loft, being a particular highlight.

Restaurants and cafes are in abundance, with the highest concentration of eateries located around Earl Street. Check out the highly recommended Frederik Cafe Bistro, La Villetta, Mu Mu’s and Embankment Floating Restaurant on the River Medway.

In the historic villages in and around Maidstone, top pubs include The Fish on the Green in Bearsted, The Potting Shed in Langley and the Curious Eatery in Boughton Monchelsea.

Mote Park

Mote Park boasts an impressive 30 acre lake offering water sports, a pitch and putt course and a cafe hub. It’s also host to a variety of festivals and events throughout the summer and autumn.

Highlights include Ramblin Man Fair in July, one of the country’s biggest rock music festivals. For three years on the go, Ramblin Man Fair encompasses rock, blues and country, has its own beer festival, and there are options for glamping and camping nearby!

October welcomes the beer and folk music festival, Oktoberfest. Expect Europe’s biggest beer tent with 30,000 litres of Bavarian beer, traditional folk music and a German food market.

How we work with LB Brent to turn empty flats into inexpensive homes in Queen’s Park

March 22, 2022

The regeneration of South Kilburn in Queen’s Park is a 15-year project aiming to deliver over 2,400 new homes as part of a sustainable and mixed neighbourhood. Flats are vacated in phases to prepare blocks for demolition. However, leaving them empty can risk them becoming the target of anti-social behaviour or can mean maintenance issues that could affect existing residents aren’t spotted.

Life for local residents can become worse just when timelines are most critical and when housing teams are most stretched. For Dot Dot Dot, this can be an opportunity to add most value. With a depth of experience in regeneration projects, and a commitment to delivering positive social impact, we work with housing teams to manage voids in a way that maintains flexibility and positivity in the decant process.

Assessing if a property can be used for guardianship

Dot Dot Dot and LB Brent worked together to establish a process whereby properties could be identified as potentially suitable for guardianship and handed over – or returned if unsuitable – in an efficient, transparent manner:

  1. Property in pipeline: LB Brent allocates a property as available for potential guardian use, and invites Dot Dot Dot for a pre-assessment site visit. LB Brent and Dot Dot Dot agree properties which appear suitable for guardian occupation, and LB Brent undertakes any necessary work to ensure that the units pass their EICR and gas safety inspections, are weathertight and have secure windows and doors.
  2. Property ready for triage: LB Brent notifies Dot Dot Dot when they’re satisfied the property is at the handover standard, and sends over gas and electricity safety certs and asbestos documentation.
  3. Key collection and triage authorisation: Both parties agree a timeline for Dot Dot Dot to put the property through triage i.e. assess its suitability for guardianship. LB Brent signs a Triage Authorisation Form and hands over keys. Dot Dot Dot inputs the property and its accompanying authorisation is into a property tracker visible to both parties.
  4. Triage: Over a maximum two-week period, Dot Dot Dot will assess the suitability of the property for guardianship e.g. the amount / cost of work needed to make it viable for occupation in line with our minimum property standards.

Either the property will be accepted by Dot Dot Dot, in which case LB Brent will give authorisation for set up to be finalised and guardians to be housed. Or, Dot Dot Dot will determine that the property can’t be used for guardian occupation, provide the reason for rejection, return the keys and a Property Handback Form to LB Brent, and designate the property on the tracker as being handed back.

Housing guardians to keep properties safe

Once authorised to house guardians, Dot Dot Dot will take on the Council Tax and utilities accounts, add safety certs to our online folder that’s shared with LB Brent, and obtain a selective licence for each property.

Prospective guardians will be vetted, with key considerations being their financial security, ability to move out if given 28 days’ notice, and their desire to volunteer.

Councillor Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet member for housing and welfare reform at LB Brent, explains: “The first temporary guardian was housed in South Kilburn in April 2021, and there are now 19 guardians across four different blocks. They will be joined by dozens more over this year 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.”

The final stage – vacant possession and handback

Using guardians means property owners are able to ask for their buildings back at any time and for any reason – all they need to do is give 32 days’ notice. In turn, Dot Dot Dot will give its guardians the 28 days’ notice required by law.

Once notice has been served, guardians will begin to activate their move on plans, and Dot Dot Dot will offer rehousing options when available and appropriate. The properties are returned to LB Brent in a clean and clear condition, and after inspecting the property, LB Brent will sign a Property Handback Schedule to confirm its return. Dot Dot Dot will close the Council Tax and utilities accounts and transfer them back to LB Brent.

This entire process can occur over a period of a few months to several years, and can flex with the timelines of the council’s regeneration plans. In choosing to work in partnership, Dot Dot Dot is able to provide its guardians with inexpensive homes in a desirable, diverse and dynamic part of the capital, and LB Brent can keep its buildings safe, support its communities and generate positive social impact through volunteering.

Spotlight on: Cate and Charlotte, International Women’s Day

March 11, 2022

This International Women’s Day, we’re throwing the spotlight on two Dot Dot Dot guardians who are doing fantastic work to both support and lead the way for women in their careers and voluntary work.

Discover how our Manchester guardian, Cate, has powerfully forged her own artistic career path in light of an autism diagnosis. And how our west London guardian, Charlotte, who is volunteering with XLP – a charity focused on supporting young people to recognise their full potential – is helping to  create positive futures for women growing up in inner-city estates.

Cate, forging her artistic career path

From our Manchester guardian, Cate 

During the pandemic I was diagnosed with autism and began to find the work I was doing problematic, especially when I had to take on new responsibilities due to Covid. I started to feel that I needed to fundamentally change what I was doing and work on something new, with an emphasis on supporting others.

Equipped with my experience of being diagnosed with autism and the challenges I’d faced in light of this, I left my job to begin focusing on initiating an art agency. My goal was to create a platform for fellow creatives who struggled to gain normal agency representation due to having specific working needs like myself. Through this support, many artists have been able to go on to set up their own websites and control their own publicity.

Knowing Manchester to be a real hub of creativity and so a place where my arts agency could thrive, I left London behind to embark on a new stage of my life in West Didsbury as a Dot Dot Dot guardian. Soon after, I got a bar job in a pub in nearby Burton Road where there is a hive of artisan shops and businesses with whom I could connect and engage with.

This opened up another new avenue for me. The owner of the pub I was working in decided to utilise an empty unit space next door, and so myself and a female friend worked together to bring the space back into use as a gallery. The aim was to showcase art from local talent, many of whom are women, in rotating exhibitions to help them to publicise their work. Since then, we’ve had three exhibitions and have helped to raise the profile of 24 different artists in Manchester to a global audience through social media.

It’s been a huge learning curve for me as I’ve always wanted to do an MA in art curation but was held back by the cost. However, being so heavily involved in the running of the Next Door Gallery means that I’ve been able to gain first-hand experience in curation, practically executing my own MA. I’ve liaised directly with buyers across the globe as well as learned how to properly store and ship artwork internationally – something I never would have had the chance to do in my old life in London where my energy was zapped by other commitments.

Following the success of the gallery, I’ve been able to scale back on the amount of time I spend working to allow myself more space to focus on my own freelance artwork. Transforming part of my Dot Dot Dot flat into my art studio has been a lifeline for me to be able to develop and produce my work. I’ve recently been part of an art show at the Antwerp Mansions in Manchester and am currently in talks to hold my first solo exhibition on the subject of autism and what that means on a personal level.

Charlotte, XLP

From our west London guardian, Charlotte

For six months now, I’ve been volunteering as a mentor to a 14 year old girl with a charity called XLP. They’re focused on creating positive futures for young people who are growing up in inner-city estates in London and facing challenges in their home lives, at school and in employment. I work with young people in my own career as chair of the Women Employability Resource Group with YMCA, and it’s something that I love doing – but I wanted to work with women in a different capacity when volunteering. XLP was a perfect way for me to draw upon my existing skill set in order to support and provide mentorship to young women.

My role is to empower and support the young woman I work with to begin to lead and shape her own future. We do many things together such as grabbing a coffee or going for a walk – anything that facilitates a conversation with her in order for me to provide guidance. XLP are even organising a weekend away with fellow mentors and mentees, and so I’ll be helping to push her out of her comfort zone, giving her opportunities to experience things she wouldn’t have in her everyday life otherwise.

There are challenges involved that relate to mentees socio-economic backgrounds and a lack of positive female role models in their lives, and so my role as a mentee really hinges on building trust and providing a listening ear for her. Specifically as a woman, I hope to have a positive impact in broadening her worldview and demonstrating to her that she is allowed to make space for herself. I am there to help her break a pre-existing bias, encouraging her to realise that she belongs in this society just as much as men and boys, and to empower her to take up space in her community.

For myself, I’ve learnt so much from this young woman – you couldn’t do this role without really seeing and feeling the impact it has for her. It’s a privilege and an honor to have a space in her life and share her challenges and sit with them in those times. I feel incredibly grateful that I am a trusted person in her life, and I hope I can continue to enable her to create positive goals and put her mind to achieving them.

Balance busy city living with peace and tranquility in Croydon

February 3, 2022

For all those searching to exchange the busyness of the city with a leafy retreat, our double room available in a 2-bedroom period cottage is well located within the grounds of Ashburton Park, north Croydon. With its ever growing restaurant scene, abundance of serene spots to unwind and surprisingly good connections to central London, discover why this leafy borough might just be for you.  

Escape to the country park 

In Croydon, you’re never far from a multitude of green spaces and serene spots to unwind. Our 2-bed cottage sits within the grounds of Ashburton Park, with acres of green space to enjoy, including two tennis courts and a basketball court.  But if it’s a real oasis of tranquility you’re after, then South Norwood Country Park offers vast meadows and wetlands to amble through plus an idyllic lake with swans, geese and waterfowl.

Fast growing food scene 

Croydon has some great spots for trying cuisines from all over the globe. Independent and local street food traders offer up their inventive menus – from Egyptian to Caribbean. You can also taste your way around the world at some of the town’s upscale restaurants.

Plenty to see and do

Calling Croydon home means that you’re never short of activities to enjoy. Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned pro, CroyWall is the place to be when it comes to bouldering. Or to experience a traditional Canadian pastime, Bad Axe Throwing is a must. Take some friends and enjoy an evening blowing off some steam! 

Don’t miss the magnificent clocktower building on the edge of Queen’s Gardens, which is actually the Museum of Croydon. The museum documents the development of the town since 1800, and provides artefacts donated by current and former residents of Croydon.

Well connected to central London

Despite having no tube station, Croydon is surprisingly well-connected to central London with frequent, direct trains to most major inner city stations within 15-20 minutes (or Brighton within the hour if you fancy a spontaneous trip to the seaside). Croydon’s vast tram network makes getting around the area convenient and will even take you towards Beckenham and Wimbledon. Plus the London Overground from West Croydon will deliver you to east London and beyond. 

Discover more about our available double room in the area and how you can apply to move to Ashburton, north Croydon.

In conversation with Mark Ackroyd, our new CEO

January 25, 2022

As we get into the swing of a new year, we catch up with Mark Ackroyd, new Chief Executive at Dot Dot Dot, about his love of the nitty gritty, how the landscape has shifted in the past five years and his aims for 2022.

Tell me a bit about how we got here – what’s your background? What brought you to Dot Dot Dot?

“I have always been interested in working with organisations that have a social element to what they do. I originally qualified as a social worker and quite quickly found out that I enjoy both the social element but also grappling with complex operational problems.

“I worked for the National Governing Body of Tennis on child safeguarding, and, since then, I’ve worked in schools and in managing creative shared office spaces. I’ve gradually deepened my understanding of property management but more generally of managing complex operational businesses. 

“Dot Dot Dot feels like a business that is addressing a very urgent challenge, but which, when I joined as Director of Services, was also a good overlap with the type of professional background that I had of balancing both social and operational business needs.

“I’m passionate about being values-driven. I like helping people to translate their values into what they do every day with their customers or with their job. Dot Dot Dot is a great fit for the things that I like to do and that I have built a skill set for over the years – nitty gritty operational detail that enables social purpose.”

 

What are the best bits about working at Dot Dot Dot?

“I really enjoy hearing about how our guardians have been making the most of their time. That is as much to do with their motivation and their drive as it is about the work that we do. It’s nice to have contact with a very cool, very motivated group of customers – that’s really exciting. 

“Another part is that I love being part of and leading a team. I think we’ve got a great team of employees that live our values, but they’re also just a really interesting group of people who are not just there for the 9-5. That, for me, is a real passion – trying to give people a work environment that is a pleasure for them. 

“The final thing is that running a business like Dot Dot Dot is quite complicated, so there’s an intellectual challenge to leading a business that has that mixed bottom line. Dot Dot Dot is a small business and a social enterprise, but when you get beneath the skin it’s a real Swiss watch – there are lots of high consequence processes, because they involve real human beings living in real homes. I really enjoy that complex machine element of what we do; trying to balance all those different factors is engaging and fascinating.”

 

How has the landscape changed since you started at Dot Dot Dot?

“During my time at Dot Dot Dot, the housing situation and the long-term financial prospects for most people have become worse, and it stopped becoming feasible for many to get onto the housing ladder. By now, you increasingly have people who feel a long way from that prospect.

“Our guardians face a more generally challenging financial environment, which is partly to do with Covid but is also a long-term trend as well. The move towards a gig economy, the gradual erasure of stable, long-term jobs is a real challenge. Many people who have a lot to bring to our cities are in precarious situations, and that’s definitely changed the landscape we work in as well. The need for us to get inexpensive housing out there has grown. 

“The debate around the social impact and responsibility of businesses has evolved significantly and has dramatically accelerated over the last five years. Dot Dot Dot have continued to deliver on our core social mission and we’ve got a very clear idea about unlocking the potential of the people we house, but we need to make sure that the way we communicate is in keeping with a much more sophisticated landscape.”

 

What are your aims for 2022?

“Our strength has always been working closely with local authorities and housing associations, and particularly in regeneration programmes, and one of my goals for 2022 is to make sure that we maintain strong, productive relationships with those clients. They have housed a lot of people with Dot Dot Dot through the pandemic, and they are now figuring out how to manage their own temporary housing needs and their own residents’ needs. One of our main focuses is to ensure we continue to foster those relationships and use our expertise to help our clients manage some of the strategic challenges that many in the housing sector are facing at the moment. 

“Another focus over the next year is to continue to understand, articulate and develop our social impact, and to ensure that the impact our guardians have is targeted as effectively as possible moving forwards.

“I also hope that we’ll be returning to the Dot Dot Dot office, to re-establish a culture of spending time together with colleagues in a more regular way. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to put our newly spring-cleaned office to proper use!”

 

How our guardians will be supporting vulnerable members of the community this winter

December 20, 2021

With the arrival of the holiday season it can be easy to forget that for many, the winter period spells isolation and hardship. But there are plenty of ways in which you can help to share joy with others over the coming months. We sat down with some of our guardians to find out how they’ll be volunteering to combat loneliness and poverty, and to get some ideas on how we can all get involved to spread festive cheer.

Spotlight on: Charlotte and Shout, a free, 24 hour mental health text support service

“I’ve been volunteering with Shout for more than two years now and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done. People can text into Shout if they have no one else to talk to, are feeling isolated or they have relationship problems. Myself and my fellow volunteers are there to provide a listening ear, de-escalate situations and also to empower the texter to seek the support they need.

In my day job, I co-run a mental health app for the LGBTQIA+ community called Kalda. Its mission is to help people to connect with others who might be facing similar issues and to attend weekly mindfulness sessions via our app, which you can search for on IOS and Android.”

Discover volunteering opportunities with Shout and how you can get involved to support their mission.

Spotlight on: Eke and Connection Support, a befriending service working to ensure no one feels alone this year 

“I’m currently linked with six elderly clients who are at risk of social isolation. I get in touch with them to listen, have a chat and brighten their day. If they ever had a problem or needed help with a daily task at home then I’m always on hand to help them out. Connection Support’s team of volunteers also help out with anything from gardening to shopping to picking up prescriptions.

Volunteering as a befriender means that you build strong relationships with the people you’re linked with and provide vital support to those who don’t have families or are on their own, particularly over the Christmas period. They always say it’s so nice to have someone to speak to and to feel valued. That’s what it’s all about.”

Find out more about Connection Support and their available voluntary positions.

Spotlight on: Jack and the Royal Voluntary Service, providing critical support to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic

“As an NHS volunteer responder for the Royal Voluntary Service, who collaborate with Good Samaritans, I put myself on duty to take calls and support vulnerable people in England who are at most risk from the COVID-19 virus to stay well. This is to help support the NHS and social care sector during the ongoing pandemic.

Mostly, I have acted as a ‘Check-in and chat volunteer’, providing short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation. I have spoken with mostly elderly individuals who live alone and are suffering from ill health or isolating, giving them an ear to listen to and assuring that they are not in danger and have everything they need.

It is a really valuable experience because often the individuals I speak to are suffering from loneliness and to help cheer them up and offer them a form of socialising, it’s rewarding.It’snice that even a short telephone call can boost someone’s spirits and hopefully make them feel better about what they are going through.”

The Royal Voluntary Service are always in need of new volunteers to join their team. Head over to their website to sign up.

Learn more about how our guardian community is dedicating their free time to a huge range of good causes across the country.

Want to apply to be a property guardian? Find out more.

A victory for property guardianship

December 10, 2021

The law on property guardianship got even clearer this month, as the Court of Appeal ruled that guardians can’t dispute a possession order as long as the property guardian company has carried out its work correctly.

The judgement also reinforced previous rulings that guardians are licensees not tenants, and that property guardian companies are entitled to evict their guardians even though they don’t own the buildings where they operate.

What happened

In a judgement known as Global 100 Ltd v Laleva (2021), three Court of Appeal judges heard a case in which a guardian, Ms Laleva, was taken to court by Global 100 Ltd, a property guardian company, who wanted to evict her.  At the first hearing, in front of a District Judge, the guardian company won and was given the right to evict Ms Laleva.  Ms Laleva subsequently appealed on the basis that she was a tenant not a guardian, and that it should have been the building owner, not the property guardian company, which evicted her.  She argued that the possession order should not have been granted without a full hearing to decide these matters. 

Her appeal was heard by a Circuit Judge, who ruled that the District Judge had been wrong to make a decision about the case at the first hearing. The judge decided that Ms Laleva’s claim that she was in fact a tenant not a licensee ought to be considered, so the issue should have gone to trial.  The Circuit Judge did, however, agree that the guardian company had the right to bring the possession claim.  Global 100 appealed against the judgement that the possession order should have been delayed, and Ms Laleva appealed against the decision that the property guardian company had the right to bring the possession claim, so the case went to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal issued its judgement on 3rd December, and its decision was entirely in favour of the property guardian company.  It ruled that Ms Laleva did not have any realistic prospect of succeeding with her tenant/licence argument because it was clear throughout that she was living in the building to take care of it on behalf of its owner, and because she did not have exclusive possession of it.  Both of these are hallmarks of licences, not tenancies.  The court also ruled that the property guardian company was the correct organisation to bring the possession claim.  This means that the District Judge was correct to issue a possession order on the first hearing, as Ms Laleva’s defence didn’t meet the standard needed to require a trial.

Because the Court of Appeal is second only to the Supreme Court in its power to set legal precedent, this means that there is no longer scope for guardians to delay possession orders by disputing the basis on which they are living in the buildings where they are placed.

Full analysis of the judgement is available from Giles Peaker, a solicitor who specialises in the law on property guardianship, here.

Our view

Over the past ten years, we have been glad to see the status of property guardian companies and property guardians themselves becoming more clearly established in law.  This month’s judgement is an important step towards cementing that, giving continued assurance that guardian companies are entitled to much swifter possession orders than residential landlords. 

Property guardianship was new when we launched a decade ago. So, at that time, our legal model relied on precedents set in cases relating to other forms of occupation where people are housed as licensees rather than tenants, such as hostel residents, almshouses and workers’ accommodation.  It has been reassuring to see, as cases have come to court, that we were correct in our original understanding of how the law would operate.

This increased clarity is also good news for property owners, property guardians and anyone living near buildings undergoing regeneration.  It is good news for property owners because it means that they can have confidence in relying on property guardian companies to provide reliable, cost-effective security and prompt vacant possession.   It is good for would-be property guardians because greater legal certainty will increase the number of buildings handed to guardian companies, meaning that we will be able to provide larger numbers of homes to people looking for inexpensive places to live.  And it is good news for local residents because it will mean that fewer buildings will be left empty unnecessarily, meaning that they can have a positive impact on neighbourhoods, rather than being a blight.

If you want to find out more about property guardianship and the property sector, you can sign up for Meanwhile Thoughts, our monthly newsletter for property owners.

Move to High Wycombe: a vibrant market town surrounded by the beauty of the Chiltern Hills

November 30, 2021

Our self-contained flats in the Buckinghamshire market town of High Wycombe are close to the picturesque Chiltern Hills and just 45 minutes from central London. From a 700 year old market to the best outdoor swimming spot, discover our top picks in the area and how Dot Dot Dot guardian, Jerry, gained his independence through living alone in his cosy 2-bed flat.

High Wycombe former guardian, Jerry

“When I was sharing a house with other people, even with just one other person, I almost always had someone to distract me. Having the chance to live by myself was the main reason I became a Dot Dot Dot guardian.

There were lots of opportunities to live with other people, but having never lived alone I thought it would give me the drive to focus on myself a bit more, and on my business. I needed to grow up a bit and take some responsibility – and it’s been awesome.”

High Wycombe Market

High Wycombe Market

Since the 13th century, High Wycombe Market has evolved to become a vibrant community of creative sellers, celebrating the diversity of the town. Dotted with street food stalls and independent traders, you can get your hands on fresh fruit and veg, antique wares and home-made preserves. Or visit the mouth-watering food court for options from authentic Jamaican to Greek cuisines that will make your taste buds sing.

Explore the town’s greener side

Rye Park boat hire

Rye Park boat hire

High Wycombe is home to large green squares and spacious parks. Discover The Rye where you can hire a rowing boat for a fun afternoon on the water and spot a variety of wildlife. You’ll also find a working watermill with a café where you can sample cakes made using their own flour. Wycombe Rye Lido offers heated outdoor swimming and is perfect to use all year round.

The Chiltern Hills

The Chiltern Hills

The Chiltern Hills

The town is nestled on the very edge of The Chiltern Hills which you can reach by train in 10-15 minutes. Heading to Saunderton will put you at the heart of the hills where you can explore many footpaths to idyllic country villages and cosy pubs – ideal for a pitstop after a day’s walking.

Discover more about our available properties in the area and how you can apply to move to High Wycombe.

Looking back: Five lessons from five years of leading Dot Dot Dot

November 12, 2021

Outgoing CEO, Peter Brown, reflects on the importance of relationships, patience and creating positive social impact.

I never imagined close to a decade after meeting Dot Dot Dot’s founder, Katharine Hibbert, I’d be sitting down to write a blog reflecting on seven and a half years working for the social enterprise she’d created, and having enjoyed five of those years at the helm.

I’d first met Katharine whilst I was working for an east London social housing provider. At the time, I knew my organisation had a few dozen empty flats and more were on the way as a regeneration scheme picked up pace. I was interested in how to keep these flats up and running and housing people. In part, I was motivated because I thought frankly it was a waste not to do so, but also because I knew that having long-term residents living alongside empty flats in large numbers would be plain awful for everyone. I had also been doing some thinking about how to achieve wider social good through my organisation’s choices of service provider, and how volunteers might be an important (but not very clearly defined part) of the support that our residents and communities needed. The kinds of things my frontline colleagues could see were a problem but didn’t have the resources to fix – like helping vulnerable residents with gardening, general litter picking.

So when I heard of a new idea bringing together property protection with people who do great volunteering, I was keen to find out more.

I was only loosely aware of property guardians, but the only two things I knew were (1) it was a Dutch concept and (2) it wasn’t the most obviously best set-up, having once attempted to become a property guardian myself a few years earlier and having been on a badly-organised viewing of a dismal flat in Hackney which at the time had no electricity. It was dark and crowded, and those viewing the space (literally) couldn’t see what they were getting into. (I should add this was a viewing organised by a property guardian company that no longer exists).

After a few more years of working in that role, Katharine let me know she was looking for someone to help grow the social enterprise and find more clients, and after an interview I joined as an employee. We’re a different business today compared to then in lots of aspects, but importantly our mission and values haven’t changed at all.

So as I prepare to hand over my role, here are five of my reflections from five years leading Dot Dot Dot.

1. It’s true that human relationships are pretty vital to success.

The success of Dot Dot Dot is significantly down to the human relationships forged and fostered as we go about doing the thing we’re specialised in: providing housing for people who want to volunteer their time for good causes. We have a great, motivated, staff team. We choose our guardians carefully, we communicate well and we treat them as humans. We give clients a great experience, and we are a good partner for whatever it is our clients are trying to achieve with their property, for as long as they need us.

2. In any growth business, creating jobs is one of the best bits.

Building and scaling a social enterprise needs a lot of skills and activity that I had frankly never thought of. We’ve been lucky to have some great supporters and people to help us along the way and for their investment in entrepreneurialism and support around scaling a small business. PwC, Goldman Sachs and Salesforce.org deserve a special mention, though there have been many others over the years who’ve helped and supported. But hands down, the best bit about growing and scaling has been that we’ve been able to create meaningful and worthwhile employment, and hopefully jobs that most of our team can enjoy most of the working week.

3. Organising around creating social impact is a powerful thing.

The impact we create through Dot Dot Dot’s model is clear, consistent and valuable (you can read more about that here, as we reflect on the value of the impact we’ve created in our ten years of operation) and the expectations around this is another thing that hasn’t altered since we began. But also, our distinctive purpose makes our work all the more powerful and for our clients, is a key reason they choose to work with Dot Dot Dot alongside our undeniable care and competence with their property. Plus, everyone likes and remembers a good story about how good value housing has helped someone, or the volunteering that happened. One of the nice bits of my job has always been reading guardians’ accounts of their volunteering and the sheer variety of volunteering: I’ve seen everything from accountancy to zookeeping.

4. Longevity and patience are important in the property world.

There are still two would-be clients that I have been trying to do work with since I first joined Dot Dot Dot. We are close with one, the other is still elusive. Property professionals often comment on property being a long-term, big-horizon, patient game (I met a property-owning organisation last year which was founded five hundred years ago, and several of our clients are more than a century old) and I’d agree. Dot Dot Dot’s ten year history compared with these kind of trajectories means we will still look youthful for some years yet, but is another reason why Dot Dot Dot’s high standards of safety, delivery, communication service are important hallmarks of how we think and deliver, and why those continue to be valued by our clients.

5. Autonomy is undervalued.

Despite the long-term thinking of the property sector, Dot Dot Dot is a nimble operator. We are a small business when compared with most of our clients. We don’t own the property assets we work in: we are temporary occupiers doing a specific role looking after buildings, and the guardians we work with – who call those buildings home – are conscientious guests who know their role is necessarily temporary. The property sector is changing as well, and in particular an increasing focus on safety is welcome and something we’ve always had a clear focus on with a firm part of our ways of doing business. Dot Dot Dot is doing a specialised job in a carefully focused way, from our choices of who we house to how we operate for our clients. Being able to make plans that further or progress the business’ mission, and then be able to swiftly execute those plans in ways that accord with our values and ways of making decisions is a big aspect of this small business.

You can also keep up with our #10years celebration where we’re highlighting guardians from the past ten years, the voluntary organisations they volunteer for, and the partnerships we have cultivated since our inception in 2011. 

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