No Londoner can have failed to notice the soaring property prices in the city. This can be an utterly depressing reality for young people and those who have moved to London for the first time. The concept of ‘office guardians’ can provide a welcome and affordable alternative to those looking to live in London.
Office guardians are effectively hired to protect buildings from squatters and the experience can be quite an adventure, as well as a money saver. For low rental prices guardians can bag themselves enormous and architecturally impressive properties in central London.
Becoming a guardian can be a viable alternative to renting for young professionals who are struggling with London property prices. It also lets you explore different areas of London that you perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise considered living in.
In exchange, you have to keep the property clean and secure. There are, of course, certain restrictions. Parties are not allowed and you need permission to leave the property to go on holiday. There is also a short moving out notice period and you will be in effect babysitting the property until it can be rented out again. Often guardians have to be employed full time and are of course subject to background checks.
The benefit of course is that you get an amazing space for the amount that you are paying, normally half the price of your average London rent. It is often a different and unique way of living as you will most likely be sharing the building with other guardians. It is also a fun challenge to turn a building designed as an office or hospital etc. into something domestic. The appeal is great for those who favour an open plan layout and have the creativity to set-up a pop-up home.
Guardians are needed as a result of the bizarre laws that Britain has adopted on squatting. As the owner of several office buildings I have often thought that these rules are ever so slightly skewed. While it isn’t a crime to squat in an empty non-residential building it is a crime to remove a squatter without going through the required and painfully lengthy civil-eviction court procedure. Property guardians provide a loophole to this law that benefits everyone involved.
We know too well the problems that squatters can cause after a group of squatters took over our Black & White Building in Shoreditch last year while we were redeveloping it. As a result, we’re using office guardians in our Borough building, which is currently being redeveloped, to protect against such trespassers.
If a building is being redeveloped it is safer to bring in a guardian from the beginning rather than risk the possibility of squatters taking over your property. It’s illegal to squat in an occupied building and so by having a live-in guardian you have someone to deter squatters and also make sure that you’re legally protected.
Becoming a guardian is very in demand at the moment and there is an influx of requests for each property that becomes available. This trend has clear benefits for all involved and seems set to get even bigger.
Olly Olsen is a founder and co-CEO of The Office Group which provides flexible and stylish offices and meeting rooms, with its ClubRooms offering drop-in and shared workspaces throughout Central London, enabling every way of working for every sort of business. For more information, visit www.theofficegroup.co.uk or follow @TheOfficeGroup.