According to website Money Saving Expert a couple of months ago, over a third of households in England and Wales are rented, and the costs can be staggering – rents are at record highs with the
average now £846 a month or £1,273 in London, according to estate agent Your Move.
For most people, however, renting is their only option for accommodation and if they work in a big city centre like London, a large proportion of their hard earned income goes on rent, utility bills and bus/tube fares, leaving what’s left for food, clothes and entertainment and the occasional holiday; never mind saving, that’s virtually impossible. The high cost of commuting also means even if you live out in the country where rents can be cheaper, the money you save on rent goes to the train companies. It’s hard to win whichever option you choose. For many the idea of saving up for a deposit to get on the housing ladder seems an impossible dream.
Don’t despair, though; there is an option that more and more people are now turning to as word gets out. It’s not for everyone but if you’re working, flexible and have no kids, this might be your answer to putting some money to one side every month for a few years. It’s all about being a property guardian.
What do you think about living in a former church? What about an empty school building, a police or fire station, or having an entire block of flats to yourself and a mere handful of like-minded other people? In return for keeping an eye on vacant premises to deter squatters, fly-tippers, or thieves after copper piping or beautiful fireplaces, property guardian companies charge their 'guardians' as little as a third of local rents. Prices vary hugely depending on the part of the country, the location and the type of premises, but it typically works out, on average, at around £250 a month, or £500-800 a month in London.
Locations and properties cover everything from country estates to council estates, so you could end up living it up in a sprawling country pile for less than a studio flat. We’ve known dancers who love living in empty warehouses so they can practise and leap around to their hearts’ content. The same goes for musicians. They can make as much noise as they like if they’re living in a former high rise office block with no one to hear them drum or sing except the birds.
Since the law changed in 2012 to make squatting in residential, but not commercial, properties illegal, building owners and managers have seen a rise in squatters in commercial properties and are increasingly turning to guardianship to combat this while a property is awaiting sale or redevelopment. This can take months or sometimes a building can lie empty for years. This is why guardians have to be flexible, you might need to move again after a few months, but not necessarily; some people have lived in the same property for years and years.
So, what's the catch, you ask…
So, that’s all there is to it. If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, why not get in touch with a guardian company and talk it through with them? Do your homework and make sure you know your rights and go to a reputable one that has good reviews. Try www.global-guardians.co.uk, Tel: 0203 818 9100. They are one of the leading and most reputable ones and belong to the British Security Industries Association. Make sure any company you go through has this membership.