PFM 20 7 - Page 16



NEWS
news
Friend or Foe?
Property Guardians Considered
By Ian Craig, partner, and Louise Kellaway, professional support lawyer at Stevens & Bolton LLP
D
o you have a vacant property
which you need to secure, but
don’t want to let? Property
guardian schemes have become
popular as a way of protecting empty
property. However, a recent court
case and surrounding publicity
highlights that owners should
consider carefully the agreements
they enter into with guardian
companies and how guardian
arrangements operate in practice.
Landowners sometimes leave properties
empty while, for example, arranging a
sale or redevelopment. Such empty
properties may be at risk of vandalism,
theft and occupation by squatters. They
can also be an expensive liability, with
no income from tenants to offset
expenditure on security and business
rates. However, owners may be wary
of granting short term lets if they want to
ensure they have possession of the
property when they need it. They may
also not want to spend money or
management time on works to the
property or marketing to attract tenants.
Property guardian schemes have
developed, to deal with these
issues.
In the ideal scenario:
owners enter into an agreement with
a guardian company which arranges
for vetted individuals, meeting the
guardian company’s selection
criteria, to live in the property on a
short term basis. This reduces the
owner’s expenditure (for example
on security) and reduces risks to the
property while providing an income.
The owners also get back
possession of the property when
they need it;
lower costs and the opportunity to
perhaps live in desirable areas of
town or unusual buildings are often
enough to tempt individuals
struggling to find affordable
accommodation to agree to shared
and short term occupation of
otherwise empty property. Demand
is booming, despite the potentially
less comfortable conditions and a
16
Ian Craig,
partner, at
Stevens & Bolton LLP
Louise Kellaway, professional
support lawyer at
Stevens & Bolton LLP
Roynon from the property. There had
requirement to be able to move from also been some adverse publicity with
the property at relatively short notice. guardians at the property reported to
have complained about their living
However, the recent county court case of conditions.
(1) Camelot Property Management The court accepted that the “licence”
Limited
(2)
Camelot
Guardian agreement imposed strict restrictions on
Management Limited v Greg Roynon Mr Roynon’s use of his rooms,
highlights that the reality of guardian particularly in relation to guests.
schemes may be far removed from this However Mr Roynon chose which rooms
ideal of mutual benefit.
would be his and the agreement did not
In this case, Bristol City Council owned a allow Camelot to move Mr Roynon from
property that had been used as an elderly room to room.
Although Camelot
persons’ home, but had become empty. retained keys and carried out occasional
The Council contracted with Camelot room inspections, the court decided in
which arranged for individual “guardians” practice Mr Roynon had exclusive
to occupy the property. One of these was possession.
He therefore had an
Greg Roynon, who in January 2014 assured shorthold tenancy, albeit a
signed a written “licence” with Camelot monthly one, rather than the five year
and moved into two rooms, with shared tenancy he claimed.
use of the living area, bathroom and Learning from this case, practical points
kitchen. Camelot served Mr Roynon with to bear in mind if you are considering
a notice to quit in May 2016, but he entering into a property guardian
refused to leave, claiming that he was an arrangement include:
assured shorthold tenant with a five year
tenancy.
Who are you dealing with?
The court looked beyond the agreement’s Does the property guardian company
label of “licence” and concluded that the have a good market reputation, is it
way the arrangement worked in practice aware of the issues highlighted by the
meant that Mr Roynon was granted Roynon case and does it have the
exclusive occupation and he was resources (itself or through a parent
therefore an assured shorthold tenant, not company guarantee) to pay you
a licensee. This meant that a longer (and compensation if things go wrong?
most likely more expensive) statutory
process had to be followed to remove Mr

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