An alternative business model in rental accommodation has emerged as a result of its unique and effective solution to squatting and vandalism of unoccupied properties. Companies such as Ad Hoc property management and Camelot Europe provide vacant property security against squatters by installing ‘property guardians’ within disused properties such as pubs, churches, office blocks and schools. Ad Hoc has over 20 years experience and is now the European market leader in Vacant Property Protection.
Property guardians are essentially accommodation renters living in disused properties owned by companies or private individuals whilst acting as a low cost security measure against vandalism and squatting. Rather than employing security guards or installing costly CCTV technology at disused sites, property guardians offer site owners a virtually 24 hour on-site presence to prevent unwanted damage to a property or avoid the legal difficulties of removing squatters.
Depending on the size and location of the building, guardians can expect to pay exceedingly low rental payments. Varying from around £225-£310 a month, rental payments generally include utility costs such as electricity, water and gas but not Internet or telephone. Potential guardians are run through a strict application and vetting process, particularly to ensure an applicant has a steady stream of income, before their eligibility to rent is determined.
Becoming a property guardian is one solution to accommodation for university students. Low cost renting will become a greater concern once the cost of attending university increases next year; the likes of Ad Hoc offer considerable competition to Halls of Residence accommodation and university-operated rental services such as Manchester Student Homes.
The average period of tenancy in a property is around eight months. However, renters only have to be provided with two weeks notice if a property is required to be empty by the owners for developmental or sale purposes. Ad Hoc boasts a 98 percent success rate in re-locating guardians, yet this requires immense flexibility on behalf of the guardians. So while the service is considerably cheaper than conventional accommodation, renters face a serious degree of uncertainty perhaps limiting the option of becoming a property guardian to only mature students. Properties are also generally unfurnished.
Such Vacant Property Protection companies operate in many countries, especially in Europe, so becoming a guardian may be a viable option for students taking semesters abroad or are considering gap years after graduation.
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