Guardians saving for a future in someone else’s home
If rent is stopping you saving for a deposit on your own home, you could cut costs by becoming a property guardian. Sharon Dale reports.
RENTING in the centre of York isn’t cheap, so John Teal is entitled to feel smug after securing cut-price digs that come with a fancy title.
He is an official property guardian and his room in a former nursing home costs him just £205 a month all in with no utility bills and no council tax.
“It’s within the city walls just yards from Micklegate with plenty of parking so it’s a really sought-after location, says John, a driver. “If I rented a onebedroom flat here it would be £700 a month plus bills so it’s a big saving.”
He has been a guardian with security company Ad Hoc for over three years and applied after his landlord put the property he was renting on the market. Ad Hoc, which turns commercial buildings into temporary homes, is a concept started in the Netherlands 20 years ago.
It was launched by a company director’s son, whose father had an empty building that had problems with theft and damage. He was a student who needed somewhere cheap to live and so he turned it into temporary accommodation for himself and others.
The firm opened its first UK branch in 2006 in London and now has ten offices in the UK, including one in York that covers the whole county.
The buildings they care for are diverse and range from office blocks and libraries to leisure centres and churches. They also include the odd private home. The only stipulation is that they’re wind and watertight and have somewhere to wash and cook.
Ad Hoc has looked after tower blocks set for demolition and units on a business park but they also had three people sharing a £13.5m.
Those who want to become guardians must be in work, be able to provide references and have no dependants or pets living with them. They aren’t allowed parties and they can’t smoke on the premises.
The rent is termed as a licence fee and ranges from £120 a month for somewhere very basic with a makeshift bathroom and kitchen to £450 a month in London.
John’s first placement with Ad Hoc was at a former children’s centre in York.
“I wanted a temporary fix but it works so well for me that I’ve stayed with them, although I’d like to save up to buy a place of my own. That’s the reason a lot of people become guardians. One guy I know has saved £15,000 by renting with Ad Hoc for three years.”
He adds: “I lived at the children’s centre for over three years and shared it with four other people. It was quite basic with a shared shower and kitchen but I had the old computer room, which was a bonus. I had 32 plug sockets.
“The care home I’m living in now is shared with 11 other people and it’s a bit more luxurious. There are more showers and we have a shared kitchen.”
Placements last an average of eight months, though some can be as short as two or they may last several years, so if you want security of tenure, this way of living may not be for you.
You are given a minimum of two weeks’ notice to leave if the owner wants the building back, so travelling light is essential.
“I don’t have lots of belongings and I also have a bedroom at my dad’s house so I have a contingency plan if I am desperate but AdHoc will try and place you elsewhere if possible and there’s an 98 per cent chance of that happening,” says John.
This kind of uncertainty hasn’t put people off the alternative form of renting. Zoe Oakes of Ad Hoc says the inexpensive, communal living offered by the company is becoming increasingly popular.
It is proving especially appealing to creatives, including artists, actors, dancers and musicians.
“They benefit from the extra space in commercial buildings where they can rehearse. We have a pianist living in a church, which he loves because he has three big pianos in there,” says Zoe, who adds: “A lot of guardians use us to save for a deposit for their own place and we just had one couple living with us so they could save for their wedding.
“There are a million vacant properties in Britain and this is a socially responsible way of putting them to use. Everyone benefits. The guardians get inexpensive accommodation and the owner has peace of mind that the building is being looked after. If there’s a leak it will be fixed and the guardians protect the building from squatting, criminality and vandalism. It saves the property owner money and they have 24-hour security, which is 80 per cent cheaper than having a conventional security.”
While living with a bunch of strangers might not initially appeal, John believes it’s one of the many benefits.
“You meet people from all walks of life and many of them have professional jobs. At the moment I’m sharing with a funeral director and an apprentice stonemason. It’s an interesting way of living and it’s certainly very economical.”
IN WITH THE NEW: The Old Barn has a sensational new look thanks to a modern makeover. The owners also added a leisure suite with contemporary, glass-walled swimming pool.
HOUSESITTER: John Teal, who has been a property guardian with the Ad Hoc company for over three years