Under the hood: who can be a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot?

March 9, 2017

Dot Dot Dot exists to secure empty property and to create housing for people who volunteer for good causes. Since we launched in 2011, we have brought hundreds of empty buildings into use – mitigating risks and reducing costs for owners, providing homes to guardians, and making a difference to communities.

We work with a wide range of residents, property owners and buildings, but we are always clear about our role in the sector – we are here to manage buildings on a temporary basis on behalf of their owners while they are awaiting refurbishment, demolition or sale. This shapes who we can house.

Who can be a property guardian?

All sorts of people become property guardians with us – we currently house designers, students, teachers, cleaners, magazine editors, librarians, support workers, engineers, zookeepers, midwives, DJ’s and dancers. 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. However, all our property guardians share some characteristics: they are resilient, financially stable, conscientious and committed to volunteering for at least 16 hours per month.

As we are taking care of buildings on behalf of their owners, we need to be able to rely on our guardians to live in them quietly and conscientiously and be great neighbours and housemates. Our guardians report any repairs or untoward activity in the neighbourhood promptly, and avoid creating any disturbance for neighbours or fellow guardians.

Because we are looking after the buildings on a temporary basis, guardians are placed as licensees not tenants. This means that they have to be ready to move out with four weeks’ notice, which is half what they would receive if they were tenants. Our guardians need to be flexible and mobile – we cannot house people who are heavily dependent on local services, or who would struggle to find alternative housing.

We are committed to acting fairly, so we want to make sure that a wide range of people know about property guardianship with Dot Dot Dot. So we market our properties on conventional platforms such as SpareRoom, Gumtree, local noticeboards and social media. Once people express interest in living with Dot Dot Dot, our application and vetting process establishes whether they are suitable.

Who we do not house and why

Guardians cannot be:

  • Under 18 or looking to live with any children under 18
  • Looking to live with any pets.
  • Looking to use the property for business or public events.

We do not house minors or people with children living with them. The core role of a property guardian is to secure the building they live in, and guardians have to be ready to move out at four weeks’ notice. This function as building security and a lack of long-term stability is not suitable for children or families. Families have a clear need to be close to the schools, GPs and other services they rely on and they cannot be expected to prioritise the condition of the building in which they live.

Similarly, vulnerable people without children would not pass our application and vetting processes. People with support needs or serious health problems need a stable home where they can access services and receive help and care, and guardianship does not provide that.

Dot Dot Dot is an organisation committed to providing an equally high quality service to property owners, property guardians and the communities in which we work. We are transparent about our standards and we always work to them. We house people who can commit at least 16 hours of their time per month to support good causes. Our guardians are not the most vulnerable people in society, but through our housing, they make good use of buildings that would otherwise stand empty and their skills and energy are used to help organisations which make a difference for the local community.

Would you like to explore further?

If you are interested in being a property guardian with us, then start your journey now.

Five years of proving there’s a different way to secure empty buildings

July 7, 2016

The way we do property guardianship benefits everyone involved in the process.

We’ve already looked at how we have created positive social impact through the way we work. Today we’re setting out how our strong social mission underpins a rigorous process, which leads to a better service for everyone we work with: property owners, communities and property guardians. Having a social purpose doesn’t make us soft – it makes us stronger!

DDD Central motif

How it works

DDD Quote 2We attract good, reliable people

  • Our mission and values attracts people and organisations to us
  • Our specific stipulation that all our guardians volunteer for at least 16 hours per month is another filter

We are careful about who we accept

  • Our vetting procedure (including multiple forms, calls and checks) is much more stringent than our competitors, and this also helps us to ascertain people’s genuine interest in volunteering.

We then manage guardians closely and attentively

Our ratio of staff to guardians is the best in the industry. Each relationship manager looks after 80 guardians compared with 400 at our competitors.

We are structured like this so that each relationship manager can monitor and support guardians’ volunteering and build up good relationships with them.

The benefits we create

DDD Quote 6Property guardians get affordable housing, are supported to volunteer and they are always treated in a straightforward and reassuring way. 

Property owners save money and they know their buildings are secure because good, reliable people are looking after their buildings.

Communities gain considerate neighbours who are committed to the area and volunteer principally for local charities

Toynbee Hall case study

  • We successfully secured a large zone 1 estate, which included a mixture of residential flats, offices and shop fronts.
  • 64 people housed
  • 6,442 hours volunteered
  • 50+ reports of antisocial behaviour
  • 24 reports of maintenance issues


At Dot Dot Dot, we have always believed that having a social purpose “baked in” to our business approach was the right thing to do. Five years down the line, we are particularly heartened that the way we work leads to a better service across the board. People and organisations enjoy working with us because of the quality of what we do and this stems in large part from our social mission. Put simply, the secret is that Dot Dot Dot is a well-run social enterprise.

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