Prop­erty guardians reap­ing re­ward of low rents

If you need an af­ford­able home, be­ing a prop­erty guardian could help cut the cost of rent. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

A CHAPEL sur­rounded by graves in the mid­dle of a West York­shire ceme­tery isn’t an ob­vi­ous des res but David El­lis loves his un­con­ven­tional home.

The ma­jor ben­e­fit is that the “rent” is half what it would be on the open mar­ket, in re­turn for him act­ing as a prop­erty guardian.

It’s an un­de­mand­ing role that re­quires David to flag up any main­te­nance is­sues, while his pres­ence acts as a nat­u­ral de­ter­rent to thieves and van­dals.

He found the cut-price let through Ad Hoc, a Dutch com­pany that im­ported its suc­cess­ful busi­ness model to Bri­tain ten years ago. It turns empty build­ings into tem­po­rary homes, sav­ing the own­ers a small for­tune in in­sur­ance and se­cu­rity bills while pro­vid­ing cheap ac­com­mo­da­tion for those who don’t mind a ten­ure that comes with un­cer­tainty.

The firm now has ten UK of­fices, in­clud­ing one in York, which cov­ers the whole of York­shire. The prop­er­ties they care for are di­verse and range from of­fice blocks and li­braries to churches and the odd pri­vate home. Ad Hoc can in­stall shower cu­bi­cles and cre­ate some­where to cook.

The only costs for the prop­erty owner are the util­ity bills. Guardians must be over

21, in work and able to pro­vide ref­er­ences. Chil­dren, pets and smok­ing are not al­lowed.

Rent, which in­cludes bills and coun­cil tax, is termed as a li­cence fee. In York­shire, the cost starts from £99 per per­son per month for a room in a shared prop­erty. The av­er­age cost is £200 per per­son a month, though this may be re­duced if cou­ples share. The length of place­ments varies but guardians are given at least 28 days’ no­tice to leave.

It’s a way of life that ap­peals to a va­ri­ety of peo­ple, es­pe­cially cre­atives, such as artists, ac­tors, dancers and mu­si­cians. Wouldbe first-time buy­ers also use it to help them save for a de­posit and there is a large quota of key work­ers and post­grad­u­ate stu­dents. Ad Hoc is also see­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of mid­dleaged men who have split with their part­ners and left the fam­ily home but are still pay­ing mort­gage and main­te­nance.

David El­lis, 45, a ve­hi­cle re­cov­ery driver, was in need of af­ford­able ac­com­mo­da­tion af­ter an am­i­ca­ble break-up with his part­ner. He was liv­ing in a car­a­van when he regis­tered with Ad Hoc and moved into the ceme­tery chapel five months ago. The prop­erty is listed so the lo­cal au­thor­ity was faced with let­ting it slip into dere­lic­tion or putting it to use.

David says: “Peo­ple ask if it is spooky, but it isn’t and I don’t be­lieve in ghosts. It’s not a sad place ei­ther. The ceme­tery has its own com­mu­nity. Peo­ple come to see their loved ones reg­u­larly, oth­ers use it as a short cut and some peo­ple just come here for the seren­ity. You get youths in the ceme­tery at night but it’s not re­ally a prob­lem for me.”

The York­shire branch of Ad Hoc has a num­ber of prop­er­ties on its books, in­clud­ing com­mu­nity cen­tres, schools, of­fices, for­mer care homes and vicarages. It also has houses that have been com­pul­so­rily pur­chased by lo­cal author­i­ties.

More un­usual spa­ces in­clude a for­mer con­vent in Hull, which has an en­tire hall, in­clud­ing a stage, to let for £250 a month. There are also rooms from £180 pcm in West York­shire mu­se­ums that have re­cently closed down.

Craig Mitchell, man­ager of Ad Hoc York­shire, says: “We have quite a few care homes on our books as they are strug­gling to stay vi­able. It is very ex­pen­sive to board them up and board­ing is a mag­net for anti-so­cial be­hav­iour. The cost of a se­cu­rity guard is £6,000 a month so the guardian op­tion is very cost-ef­fec­tive. It also means that the prop­erty is heated and aired, which helps main­tain the fab­ric of the build­ing.”

“The only thing we ask of our guardians is that they move into a build­ing and show it is oc­cu­pied and re­port any is­sues. There are no se­cu­rity du­ties. Just hav­ing some­one liv­ing there is a big de­ter­rent.”

Some guardians stay with Ad Hoc for years mov­ing from prop­erty to prop­erty, though David El­lis hopes to stay in his ceme­tery chapel for as long as pos­si­ble.

“It is the most won­der­ful build­ing and I feel blessed to live here.”

Ad Hoc York­shire, www. ad­hocprop­erty.co.uk

Just hav­ing some­one liv­ing there is a big de­ter­rent. Craig Mitchell, Ad Hoc, on why prop­erty guardian schemes make sense for own­ers.

AF­FORD­ABLE RENTS: Craig Mitchell, man­ager of Ad Hoc York­shire, which turns empty build­ings into tem­po­rary homes for ‘guardians’.

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