Tenant's Toolkit

Property Guardian

Fancy living in a church, school or fire station? In return for babysitting empty premises to deter squatters, property guardian companies charge their 'guardians' as little as a third of local rents.

Prices vary hugely but it typically works out at £300 a month, or £400 a month in London. This is a bargain, considering the average private monthly rent in the UK stands at £909 a month or £1,532 in London, according to tenant referencing company HomeLet.

Buildings include everything from monasteries to mansions, so you could end up living it up in a sprawling country pile for less than a flat.

Since the law changed in 2012 to make squatting in residential, but not commercial, properties illegal, building managers have seen a rise in squatters in commercial properties and are increasingly turning to guardianship to combat this. This may lead to more opportunities to take up property guardianship in the future.

What's the catch?

  • You must be employed and need to be flexible – here are a few things to consider.
  • Guardians have fewer rights than tenants. You may have to up sticks at two weeks' notice. So this is good for those with flexibility, eg, people who can kip at their parents'. The firms usually try to find alternatives, but it's not guaranteed and you have to pay a transfer/admin fee of about £70ish. Many guardians live in the same place for years though. See more on limited rights and what to watch out for.
  • There are fees involved. You must pay a deposit. It varies, but it's typically between £350 and £500, or £600 in London. Most charge a £100ish admin fee when you sign up, plus you need to buy a fire safety pack (c. £60). Rents usually include bills and council tax.
  • Accommodation can be basic (and eerie). Most places need work doing and are unfurnished, so it's more suited to adventurous types. You often share with others, depending on the property size, but usually get your own room. Many of the buildings don't have central heating, so woe betide you if it's winter and you don't have a heater (oil-filled only, usually).
  • You may need your own furniture. It will generally say on the advert whether the room includes any furniture but it also worth checking what's included in the communal areas too. Check out this Freecycle & Freegle guide for some ideas.