Published on November 6, 2013 | by Alastair Shone

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An alternative to expensive student accommodation

Older property in the guardian scheme

Property guardians live in vacant buildings [Cameloteurope.com]

Since 2006 a growing property protection business has been providing an alternative to expensive London living.

Ad Hoc was founded in the Netherlands in 1990 and has become the European Market leader in property protection, working with guardians to prevent empty buildings from becoming derelict or occupied by squatters.

A property guardian lives in one of Ad Hoc’s vacant buildings, which could be anything from a flat to a church or an old sports hall.

Costs start from as little as £150 a month, which sounds ideal for the thousands of students that descend on London every year looking for affordable living space.

Experiment

“There is a lack of affordable accommodation in the UK,” Zoe Oaks of Ad Hoc told The Daily Telegraph. “This scheme provides local working people with somewhere to live. It is both cost-effective and socially responsible.”

No tenancy agreement is needed and you can experiment making the space your ideal home within weeks of moving.

In September 2012, Ad Hoc crowned a guardian called Jemima the winner of their makeover competition after she turned her space into her home.

Guardians also have a chance to win a bottle of champagne every month, whether it is by giving the place a makeover or just a deep clean.

It seems that being a property guardian is a lot more interesting than just moving in to a regular house.

The scheme helps authorities deal with squatters; a persistent issue throughout London and the UK.

Last September, laws were changed that made squatting in a residential building an offence that can lead to six months in prison or a £5,000 fine.

Ad Hoc combats the issue by finding reliable house-sitters to fill buildings at cheap prices and avoid squatters.

No contract

Living as a property guardian may be for those that like to live life on the edge.

Due to no tenancy agreement, you might only have two to four weeks notice to move out whenever the owner wants you to.

“This scheme provides local working people with somewhere to live” – Zoe Oaks

With a hectic student lifestyle filled with deadlines, being a property guardian may not be the best accommodation solution for students.

Yet, Ad Hoc says that guardians are taken care of and tries its best to rehouse them.

The worst situation could be that you have to keep moving every few months. Guardians do not have any of the usual tenancy rights and the scheme has been criticised as people are still renting these properties with limited protection of their rights.

Owners of the properties can be less than diligent with repairs and maintenance, so guardians need to make sure that they are prepared for all eventualities.

Cheap and central

Camelot Property Management is a similar property protection scheme, which houses around 10,000 people across Europe.

Daniel Ross has lived in four different places in three years with Camelot. He currently lives in a former hospital, just off Tottenham Court Road with 14 other guardians. He pays £90 per week but no bills and believes that living as a guardian is worth all the hassle.

He told thefirstpint.co.uk: “It’s a great way to meet people and live cheaply. It’s the most central I’ve ever lived, and you get quite used to living so centrally. You don’t really want to go back to commuting and, as I’m working in a pub, it’s not really convenient to be travelling a long way late at night.”

While the scheme is suitable for students who are looking for cheap and central accommodation, it is clear that you have to be flexible, DIY friendly, and feel comfortable with the possibility of moving out with four weeks notice.

Living in a central location at a low price is certainly an offer that is hard to refuse.

WARNING: Before you apply to be a property guardian, be aware that parties are prohibited.

 

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