Vacant Site Protection Service – FAQ
Q. What are the risks to vacant properties?
When your property is vacant for a long period of time, the following risks may occur:
- Theft of contents or fittings
- Cannabis farms
- Illegal parties
- Squatting or illegal occupation by travelers
- Dumping of abandoned vehicles or fly-tipping
- Dilapidation or natural events such as storm damage
- Public Liability claims resulting from injuries to visitors including intruders
- Depreciation of your property
Q. What are the benefits of using Guardians of London’s services?
- Cost saving on expensive security systems
- For an occupied property, your insurance premiums will be considerably lower than for a vacant property
- Your property is legally protected against squatting
- Your property will be heated and aired
- Flexible security periods (from 24 hours to a period of several years)
- Relationship with surrounding neighbourhood remains intact
- Property maintains its value
Q. How does Guardians of London protect the properties in its care?
We have a team of responsible guardians who, through temporarily occupying your property, help to prevent the risks and threats facing vacant buildings. Through our careful vetting process, we are able to identify the most appropriate guardians for your property. This could be an empty office building or a church, a town hall or a school. Even if your building doesn’t appear to offer the possibility for occupation such as cinemas or warehouses, Guardians of London offer a solution for the protection of any type of property. While we take over all building management, you have more time to focus on the future usage of your property.
Q. Why do I need to manage my vacant properties?
Vacant properties attract vandalism and squatters who may break in and cause damage to the inside of the building. Often there is no structured or regular supervision of the state of a property, so that frozen pipes and leaks are identified too late. This results in the dilapidation of a property and depreciation of its value.
Q. What kind of properties do Guardians of London manage?
We manage a wide range of properties and sizes across London. Properties that do not appear suitable at first can be transformed into a habitable condition by the simple installation of mobile utility units.
Q. What condition does a property need to be in to qualify for temporary protection?
General property requirements are:
- The property is wind and water tight
- The property is not vandalised or derelict
- Basic electricity and water facilities are in place
For a small start-up fee, we frequently install basic ‘wheel-in, wheel-out’ shower pod units ensuring that we can provide temporary washing facilities, which have been approved by English Heritage. The guardians provide their own kitchen facilities, including microwaves and portable kitchen hobs that are no greater than 13amps for fire safety reasons.
Guardians of London can manage a property whatever the size: if it is a large building, we place guardians strategically throughout the building in order to maximise security and produce a tailormade quote specific to your property and requirements.
Q. What are the costs of temporary protection?
The costs of temporary management by Guardians of London are kept as low as possible. In general, we ask you to pay the utilities costs to make the property habitable, plus a modest monthly fee:
- All outgoings for the premises (utilities as far as the site is occupied, empty business rates, insurance)
- Weekly management fee: £25 – £250, depending on the size of the property, not the number of guardians
- Initial investments to make the property habitable (repairs, smashed windows, new locks, installation/removal of mobile shower cabinet and electric shower, sinks)
- These costs are reasonably lower than the cost of hiring in security guards or the cost of repairing long-standing damages, as a result of the building being vacant.
Q. What if the property does not have any electricity/water at the moment?
We have a very experienced and approved maintenance team who can assist with reconnections. We always adhere to current health and safety guidelines and jurisdictions. Let us take a look at the property and it might just be a matter of turning the water/electricity back on.
Q. Will it cost a lot to reconnect the electricity and water?
In our experience, our clients have found that the cost of water and electricity is still a substantial amount lower than paying for 24 hour security guards, or the time and money wasted on dealing with evicting squatters.
If you allow us to assess your property free of charge, we can provide you with a quote for the building and a security consultation for which we may be able to keep the costs low for you.
We strive to keep costs to a minimum for our clients, and usually advise that all the boilers are switched off, and a minimum number of temporary shower units are installed. Once we have assessed your property, we can advise you correctly with an accurate quote
Q. Will people still want to live in it?
Our guardians are very flexible and enjoy living in unusual buildings! In addition, our licence fees are very inexpensive and are thus attractive to many guardians, especially key workers.
Don’t worry about who people wanting to live in your property: leave that in our capable hands. We always find Guardians for our properties.
Q. I already have CCTV
CCTV does not prevent crime/vandalism/squatters, it merely records it. Active occupation of a property has proven to be the most effective means to prevent vandals and thieves, and it is the only guaranteed way to prevent squatters.
Q. I already use a security guard
Security guards are expensive and cannot prevent squatters. We have known clients who’ve had squatters move in at one end of a property while the security guard is manning the other end. Our solution involves several people coming and going at all times of the day, lights turning on and off, and very visibly demonstrating that the entire building is still in occupation
We can send you some cost saving information that demonstrate how much money you can save by using our services, instead of a traditional security guard.
Q. But I have already boarded up my property?
The use of boards is an advert for squatters, vandals and even arsonists. It presents a poor image to the local community, and leaves the building poorly insulated, so can encourage dilapidation. Our solution sends a clear message to the community that the property is in use and so does not devalue the neighbourhood, nor does it encourage vandalism or theft in any way.
For property developers, by boarding up a property, you are sending a message to the council and community that you do not care for the neighbourhood. By using the Guardians of London, you can send a message to the neighbourhood and community that you are aware it will take a minimum of 6 months to get all permissions granted, but that you wish to take on responsibility for the upkeep of your property and the area.
By promoting this image we have had clients who have in turn been awarded with a higher number of flats (for example) by the council, who have respected the property developer’s handling of the properties prior to their development commencement.
Q. Won’t the guardians cause wear and tear on my property?
We will place the appropriate number of guardians in the property to ensure the security of the building and no more than necessary. The guardians are very carefully vetted and placed according to the sensitivity of the building’s location and requirements.
The guardians are managed by our specialist guardian management team who conduct regular spot-check monthly inspections of the property. In addition, the owner has full access to the property at any time.
The property and guardians are far more closely managed than having tenants or other security options.
Guardians are only allowed 2 guests each at any one time and cannot under any circumstances hold a party in the property.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the daily wear and tear by a few guardians is far less than even the smallest amount of damage that squatters can do to a property.
If you currently hire a 24 hour security guard, we will save you up to £25k in 3 months, and even a fraction of this will put right a lot of wear and tear.
We don’t overfill our properties like some other guardian companies, so wear and tear is kept to a minimum.
Q. How do I know my property is not at increased risk of fire?
Guardians are only allowed 13Amp portable hobs and microwave ovens. These and their personal kettles are only allowed to be placed in the designated kitchen or kitchenette area and not in any other room.
Candles are not allowed and the guardians will be fined if they are found to be in possession of any.
Only oil-filled electric heaters are permitted by a guardian, as these are proven to be the lowest form of fire risk.
Guardians are asked to use timers on their heaters to reduce the risk of fire.
An empty building is at far greater risk from fire and arson but, if occupied by guardians, your insurance premiums and excess are lowered, which is evidence that the insurers recognise the benefits of having guardians in situ. In addition, the London Borough Fire Brigade log guardian properties as being at far lower risk than any other empty properties.
Q. I am concerned about confidentiality
All of our staff have signed confidentiality agreements. We have secure, electronic systems for the handling of data and we can tailor the service to suit your requirements, for example, such as our signing of an NDA.
Q. It’s too derelict, it’s not suitable
Ideally, the property needs to be water tight and wind tight but we can recommend accredited maintenance teams who can very easily and economically bring a property to the minimum H&S and environmental requirements in order for it to be habitable.
Our guardians are very flexible and you’ll be surprised at how little is required to enable guardians to move in.
Q. What do you do with water tanks and the risk of Legionnaires disease?
Any services we use will only be direct from the mains cold water feed; this will reduce the risk of using water from pipes that have not been used for a long period and that may have gone stale.
We connect directly from the mains because huge water tanks that serve 100 plus people in an office will never be used adequately enough to rotate the water and prevent any health risks.
In the initial property survey, we will identify any large water tanks at risk of becoming stale and ensure these are not used by the guardians. We may even drain them and turn them off if required.
Q. What about risks to occupants?
Unlike other guardian companies, we include a full property H&S and Fire Risk Assessment. It’s also worth noting that many firefighters and police officers are in fact guardians and the fire brigades rate guardianship as a very effective and economic way of housing their officers within the city and near to their place of work.
Q. What happens if a guardian causes damage?
If a small amount of damage is done, this will be covered by the guardian’s own personal liability insurance and Guardians of London will deal directly with the guardian over this matter. If a large amount of damage is done to a property by a guardian, this will be covered by the property’s building insurance.
The risk of any damage being caused is drastically reduced, however, by placing guardians in it rather than leaving the property empty.
Q. What if a guardian leaves a window open and burglars break in and steal from the property and the guardians, and also vandalise the property?
The guardians live in the property as their own home, so they take the utmost care. However, in the unlikely event of this happening, this will be covered by your building’s insurance, and our guardians will be covered by their own insurance.
Q. What happens if squatters break in while guardians are at work?
This is breaking and entering and the squatters are now committing a criminal offence and will be arrested.
Q. Why can’t I have just one guardian living in my property?
We have a property licence arrangement with the guardians rather than a tenancy. This allows us to carry out spot-check monthly inspections and manage the property far more closely than with a tenancy.
However, a legal requirement is that the guardian is not alone and that the living space is shared. Having more than one guardian increases the security by creating more activity which becomes a natural deterrent to burglars and vandals. Active security and instant reporting of any maintenance issues is infinitely safer for your property than relying on video cameras or 24 hour security guards, who don’t necessarily care about your property as much as we will.
Insurance companies love the fact that the property is at a reduced risk by being occupied, with any issues being reported back by guardians who care about the property because it’s their own temporary living space. The more eyes and ears that can report on what’s going on the better!
Q. Will I remain in charge of my own property?
The occupation agreement used by Guardians of London is legally watertight. A guardian, in their capacity as a temporary occupier, does not have the right to remain in your property once you no longer require our services. Furthermore, the occupation agreement explains the rights and obligations of the guardian in a clear and straightforward manner.
Q. How quickly is my property available to me again?
Guardians of London protects your property and it becomes fully available to you after a notice period of a minimum of 28 days. We prefer the transfer date to be on a Monday so that our guardians can move out over the weekend, keeping your property under our protection right up until the moment when we hand it back to you.
The guardian scheme allows the property to be ready for sale as and when required – there is no delay from eviction of squatters or unforeseen dilapidation. Guardians look after the property, reporting maintenance issues and keeping the property aired, which is also beneficial if the property is awaiting a sale.
If you know in advance that the property is going to be under management for less than the minimum period, we can arrange that you pay the 3 month minimum but can serve notice at any time. If your property is an easy set up, with washing facilities already installed and fully health and safety compliant, we may still be able to move guardians in for a very short amount of time.
Q. In what condition will Guardians of London return my property to me?
When we receive a property from you, we fill in an assessment form together and take a series of digital photographs, to establish the exact state of the property on day one. We keep you continuously updated about its status via the written monthly report sent to you after each of our property inspection visits. The property will be returned to you empty and clean and in exactly the same state as it was originally delivered to us.
Q. Do I need a change of use for a building?
If the guardians reside at the property merely to ensure the security of the building, then the primary use of the building remains the same. Therefore, planning permission is not required.
Q. Are the agreements Guardians of London uses for guardians legally binding?
Guardians of London uses temporary occupation licences, rather than tenancy agreements, to contract our guardians. These licences are regularly checked against current jurisdiction. The licence is a special agreement and not a tenancy with tenancy protection and termination periods.
Q. Does my building qualify for empty business rates?
Yes, the Guardians of London scheme is a vacant site protection service, hence the empty business rates continue. According to the ODPM, the change of usage of a property is not required, since neither Guardians of London nor the landlord wishes to change the usage of a property into a residential building. Similarly DTLR advise that, by using the Guardians of London scheme, the Empty Business Rates do not change.
Q. What about insurance?
The owner should pay insurance as they normally would. Standard property insurance policies do not cover the many risks that come with vacant properties. Insurance companies often raise the owner’ costs due to higher risks. However, when choosing the Guardians of London scheme, insurance covers remain the same for a vacant building as if the building were in normal use.