St Austin’s Church and Presbytery – Case Study

In Liverpool, there are currently more than 3,000 homes and hundreds of other properties that have been vacant for more than six months.  Vacant properties are a green light for squatters, vandals and other sorts of anti-social behaviour that affect whole communities.  Last year alone, there were 6,066 reports of anti-social behaviour and 1,748 reports of criminal damage and arson in Liverpool.  This is a drain on local authority resources and property owners are left with costly repair bills and higher insurance premiums.

 

A potential solution

One way of tackling this problem is property guardianship. The idea, pioneered by Ad Hoc Property Management across Europe and in the UK, places working professionals, ‘Guardians’, into empty buildings on flexible licence fees.  The Licensees get an affordable place to live and save money, and empty properties are secured and maintained by the presence; this can also have a regenerating effect on the wider area. Live-in guardians not only prevent properties from falling into disrepair, but they can reduce insurance, security and damage costs – something that should be high on the agenda for local authorities and property across the country.

 

“If more property owners and councils were aware of the benefits of property guardianship, there would be less vacant properties around the city. This would not only bring buildings and areas back to life, but it would also save money on costs attributed to vandalism, asset stripping and associated anti-social issues. Our solution is more cost effective versus traditional security measures. ” said Alan McLaren, Liverpool Area Manager, Ad Hoc.

A case in point

One property certainly benefiting from Guardianship is St Austin’s church and presbytery in Liverpool.  This beautiful building in the Cressington area dates back to 1838, and is a Grade II Listed building comprised of two buildings sitting on 52 acres – the former church itself, and the beautiful presbytery, adjoining it at the rear.

In September 2015, the church closed its doors to the public and went on the market. While waiting for a buyer, the owners contacted Ad Hoc to manage and secure it from falling victim to vandalism, squatting or asset-stripping.  For two and a half years, Ad Hoc has successfully protected the buildings using a combination of their Smart Alarm system and by having Guardians live in the presbytery.

“Living in a beautiful property so close to the city centre, and at such an affordable price is a rare find. I am not only able to save money, but I can do so while enjoying a great lifestyle and giving back to the community by securing the property,” said Olga Demidovich, Guardian at St Austin’s.

Located just 5 miles South East of Liverpool City Centre and a short walk from Cressington Station, the presbytery (a total of 3,283 sq ft), has been converted to have 5 living spaces, a communal kitchen and living room, and multiple shower rooms and toilets.

At an affordable licence fee of just £200 pcm, Ad Hoc provides the opportunity to live affordably and conveniently all while saving money, which many guardians use towards a deposit on a future home.  This then helps address part of Britain’s housing crisis on different levels, as well as saving local authorities, diocese and property owners money.

Northgate House – An answer to the housing crisis?

The rising cost of property across the UK is making it increasingly difficult for not only property owners trying to rent their property, but also for first-time home buyers looking to get on the property ladder. Country-wide, the number of young homeowners has halved since the ‘90s. The average first-time buyer needs to borrow upwards of 40 times their salary to be able to buy a home, and roughly 34 per cent rely on the ‘bank of mum and dad’ for financial help.

All over the UK, people are feeling the sting – and West Yorkshire is no exception. Here, the average cost of buying a home has reached £188,449, unprecedented in this part of the UK. Those who can’t afford to buy are left with sky-high rental costs averaging at £690 pcm in this area. While councils are proposing spending millions of tax-payer’s money on building new homes, there is an abundance of empty properties that can and should be utilised.

One potential solution

In the autumn of 2017, Calderdale Council’s Northgate House offices in Halifax closed its doors in an attempt by the local authority to attract more major commercial retailers.  But until the building’s fate is decided, it is sitting empty.

That’s where Ad Hoc Property Management comes in. They were engaged by Calderdale Council to manage the empty premises by placing pre-approved, carefully-vetted ‘property guardians’ in it on a short-term basis. By occupying the building, the guardians keep it safe and looked after, while its future is decided.

The Northgate House property has been converted to accommodate 17 individual living spaces and has some of the best views of the Yorkshire area. The rooms range from cosy double bedrooms to huge open plan office spaces, all sharing a kitchen and newly installed showers. The spaces go between £195pcm and £270pcm, which includes all bills and council tax. By placing Guardians into these empty properties, people are given the opportunity to pay a very affordable licence fee, and save for a chance to get onto the property ladder.

It is a win/win situation for both parties. The local council gets peace of mind knowing their property is in safe hands, while the Guardians occupying the building are able to benefit from affordable housing and a quirky, alternative way of living,” said Craig Mitchell, local Area Manager for Ad Hoc.

Both significant savings and reassurance for local authorities

Security for an empty property can run into the thousands of pounds and repairs for damage caused by vandals and squatters can cost even more. The costs mitigated as a result of guardian occupancy include security of the premises, plus the potential of reduced insurance and taxes, so local authorities can save significant sums, which are always badly needed elsewhere.  The use of available spaces can also regenerate local areas and economies.

According to reports, across Yorkshire and Humber there are 27,058 properties that have been recorded as long-term empty. If more people, as well as public-sector bodies, were aware of the benefits of property guardianship, the opportunities for improving communities and saving money would work hand-in-hand with a lateral solution to the region’s shortage of affordable homes; something that should be investigated as a matter of urgency.

For more information about Ad Hoc’s property management or if you are interested in finding affordable accommodation and helping communities feel safer, please contact: 0191 338 6699 or 0333 015661

Looking for temporary accommodation in London

If you are looking for temporary accommodation in London, then you may wish to consider becoming a property guardian.

Accommodation in London is well know for being expensive especially for short term rentals. However an alternative to short lets is the Property guardian model. Property guardians occupy otherwise empty properties and in doing this, help to protect the building simply by living in it.

Many of the properties are unusual in that they may be former commercial space, but if you are looking for short term lets in London this is an option well worth considering if you are prepared to open your mind to this type of accommodation. Short term lets range from budget studio flats, perfect for people moving house, to spacious townhouses, school buildings and commercial space. For those considering cheap short term lets in flats, rooms in house share and self catering accommodation in East London, or, located in Central, North-West and West London’s areas, mainly in zone 1 and 2.

So for temporary accommodation in London, rather than an expensive and un-friendly serviced apartment. If you are looking for your own space and something both affordable and quirky. Then consider Ad Hoc.

 

Solutions for Void Property Management

Landlords and estate managers have several options available for void property management.

These range from manned security to boarding up and remote CCTV monitoring. Property managers however would be advised to also consider the use of property guardians to keep the property occupied. Keeping the building occupied and heated has additional benefits as it also protects the fabric of the building.

Simply boarding up a property can quickly lead to the building beginning to deteriorate and to attract squatters and vandals which has a wider impact on the surrounding neigbourhood. This isn’t to say that property guardians are the complete solution. If the property is part of an estate of buildings some building may not be suitable for occupation. In these cases the use of smart cam towers linked to a control room allow peripheral void buildings to be monitored.

Managing void properties whether long or short term requires a mix of solutions. Having guardians in the properties allows realtime reporting on otherwise void properties. This is in addition to regular property inspections to identify repairs, ensure health and safety.

Ad Hoc manage every stage of the void property process, from undertaking a property pre-inspection survey through to completing all the necessary remedial works, followed by final post-inspection, and handover once the building is ready for it’s new purpose.

Good management of void properties and the limitation of void periods is vital to maximise rental income in surrounding properties.

The ultimate objective being to stop void properties remaining unoccupied for long periods of time whist ensuring that void properties are safe, clean and importantly secure. With reduced costs from trespassing, theft and damage.

25,000 vacant properties that could alleviate housing crisis

Managing Director Ad Hoc Property Management says Local Government is sitting on nearly 25,000 vacant properties that could alleviate housing crisis and budget pressures

 

The Local Government Association (LGA) is warning that projected tax rises won’t address the emerging £5bn funding gap within the sector. As local authorities finalise their council tax plans and budgets for the year, the MD of Ad Hoc Property Management says more local authorities should be looking to significantly reduce the costs of managing their vacant buildings and the knock-on effect they create.

 

Simon Finneran is Managing Director of Ad Hoc, one of the UK’s most established vacant property management companies and a pioneer of the ‘Property Guardian’ model in the UK and across Europe.  He says that only a small percentage of local authorities have fully to realise the cost-saving – and social benefits of using property guardians or technology like Smart camera security towers to protect and maintain their vacant buildings. In England alone, local councils own more than 23,000 empty homes- an average of 87 per council, according to a study by online estate agent eMoov.co.uk.   These empty homes are a target for theft, vandalism and anti-social behaviour – and can also be put to good use if approached flexibly, as with Ad Hoc’s novel approach.

Mr Finneran’s vacant property security business has offices throughout the UK and is currently managing hundreds of properties across the whole country on behalf of property owners, including local authorities, using a combination of mobile ‘Smart camera security towers and alarms’ and ‘Guardians’.   These Guardians, numbering several thousand throughout England, Scotland and Wales, are working professionals on flexible licenses, who benefit from affordable, flexible living close to where they work.  That not only regenerates local areas and economies, but can save councils thousands of pounds a month in security, insurance premiums and reduced emergency call-out charges.

When Councils contrast the insurance premiums on empty buildings, plus other costs including manned security and higher taxes, they quickly see that having a responsible company managing their vacant properties effectively can save them significant monthly sums.  At the same time, the Guardian solution can help, in part, alleviate local housing issues and create employment and the rejuvenation of local areas.  Property guardianship and smart vacant property management need to be higher up the agenda to help local government tackle their budget issues.”

Finneran goes on, “Virtually every local council in the UK is relying on private landlords to assist in the supply of much needed social housing and yet many of them are sitting on empty buildings that would make ideal accommodation for property guardians.  Ad Hoc’s Licensees are vetted and in full-time employment, responsible individuals living in empty properties in exchange for very competitive monthly license fees, an arrangement that often helps them to save towards a mortgage deposit.  With budget cuts and austerity to the fore and public services being squeezed, we need to do more to help the public sector with its finances – and we can.

It is estimated this year that ninety-five percent of local authorities in England are due to raise their council tax by at least three percent, (according to the 2018 state of local government finance research).

Some local authorities are already actively championing the benefits of the Ad Hoc model, but many more could benefit if some of the red tape was cut.

LONDON BOROUGH SHOWS THE WAY IN MAINTAINING VACANT AND DISUSED PROPERTY WITH PROPERTY GUARDIANS

Glasbury House Outdoor Education Centre. A model in how the public sector can offset vacant property security costs whilst boosting the homes shortage issue.

Glasbury House Outdoor Education Centre, located in Hereford, was closed down in August 2015 as part of the widespread funding cuts to its children’s’ services.

The education centre, owned by the borough of Redbridge, had been used as an education and outreach venue for up to 1,800 pupils from the East London Borough, where they could partake in adventurous activities such as canoeing, rock climbing and kayaking. The centre’s purpose was to enable young people, who travelled to Wales from the Borough on organised trips, to interact with one another in a social but educational setting to boost confidence and mental well-being, and proved successful. However, in the era of financial moratorium being experienced across the whole public sector, the services were moth-balled, and the large property and its lands fell vacant.

The centre sits on seven acres of beautifully-kept land, at the centre of which are two large buildings – the main house and the bunk house. The main house has 9 large bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, staff room, multiple bathrooms and more, totalling 650 square metres of floor space. The bunk house has five bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, office, multiple bathrooms and much more, totalling 287 square metres of floor space.

When the leisure centre was forced to close, the council was approached by specialists Ad Hoc Property Management, a company that places Property Guardians in vacant properties to occupy and maintain them until they are eventually repurposed. Guardians pay an affordable ‘licence fee’, which can be as little as £160 per month, to live in the properties on a short-term basis.

Securing vacant properties can be extremely costly and risky for property owners, and if a property suffers damage through vandalism, squatting, break-ins or, at worst, asset stripping, these costs can become exorbitant.

With pre-approved, carefully vetted guardians in situ, vacant properties can be secured and maintained, all while providing an affordable, alternative way of living for the Guardians themselves. Local communities also benefit from property guardianship, as residents near previously vacant properties can be safe in the knowledge that a building is now occupied, significant reducing the risk of anti-social behaviour, illegal occupancy and of course physical damage.

In the time Ad Hoc has been managing Glasbury House, it has been estimated conservatively that over £8,000 of costs have been saved each month, a totalling a staggering £232,000 over the whole period to date.

The costs mitigated as a result of occupancy by guardians include the provision of security arrangements, and reduced insurance and taxes, so the benefits are shared jointly by property owners and guardians alike. In short, public money saved also leads to reducing the strain on the shortage of homes locally and across the UK.

If more vacant properties were occupied by Guardians in Wales, the full spectrum of the public sector that owns vacant property, especially local government, would benefit from saving on police resources (reduced call-outs for vandalism, break-ins and squatters etc), as well as savings on security and maintenance. But, it’s not just local government that benefits either, guardianship provides affordable living options for those who have been priced out of the rental market, and therefore must be considered by local authorities when it comes to empty buildings – a problem Wales must address, and fast.

The London Borough of Redbridge have shown how it is possible to save significant amounts of money on the public purse whilst safeguarding the community, and indeed the public realm.

Redbridge Council entered into an agreement with Ad Hoc for Glasbury House in summer 2016. Since then, up to 12 guardians have been living in the premises. Accordingly, the Council has not had to have paid for any traditional security and has received about £1,000 income each month. Both Ad Hoc and the guardians have also assisted in some management role for the property, which the Council is very grateful for, particularly as the premises is situated some 200 Miles from Redbridge’s base.  In early 2017, Redbridge was happy to enter in to another agreement with Ad Hoc for a large property located in its Borough.

Liverpool Rodney Street – Case Study

As the housing crisis across the UK continues to worsen, Liverpool in particular is feeling the effects. The country as a whole has an estimated 1.2 million people on waiting lists for affordable housing, and in Liverpool alone, there are 15,008. However, there are currently 3,093 homes in the city that have been sitting vacant for more than six months. With Liverpool City Council promising to build 25,000 new homes by 2022, it is evident that more lateral solutions to the lack of homes aren’t also being considered.

 

One solution not being utilised enough is property guardianship. The scheme, one that Ad Hoc Property Management has seen much success with all over the UK, places Guardians into properties at an affordable licence fee (as low as £160pcm), where they can live and save money, all while securing and maintaining the property.

One property in particular that is reaping the benefits of Guardianship is a Freehold Grade II Listed brick-built set of flats on Rodney Street in Liverpool, situated within the Rodney Street Conservation area, and which forms a part of the popular ‘Georgian Quarter’.

 

Owned by Great Places Housing Group, this beautiful property was turned over to Ad Hoc Property Management in April 2016, and has been well-looked after and secure ever since, keeping squatters and vandals at bay.

 

“As a company that strives to provide affordable housing to those who need it, we fully support the work of Ad Hoc in not only doing the same, but in helping property owners to keep their properties safe until their future is decided,” said XXXX managing director, Great Places Housing Group.

 

The property, which is a short walk from Liverpool city centre, is located in a prime student area within a 15-minute walk to all three major Liverpool universities, as well as supermarkets and other handy amenities. There are 25 self-contained en-suite units ranging in size between 250 and 400 sqft, and a number of communal areas, meeting rooms and offices. Units are available for a licence fee of just £300pcm, all utilities included.

 

“Living so close to the city centre at such an affordable price is a rare find. I am not only able to save money, but I can do so while also enjoying a very social lifestyle right in the centre of the city,” said XXXX, Guardian at Rodney Street flats.

 

Vacant properties are a green light for squatters and vandals. Last year in Liverpool, there were a total of 6,066 reports of anti-social behaviour and 1,748 reports of criminal damage and arson. Often, empty buildings fall victim to these crimes, leaving property owners with costly repair bills and higher empty property insurance premiums. Having Guardians live in properties until their futures are decided is not only a great way to keep them from falling into disrepair as a result of anti-social behaviour, but it is also a great way to save on the cost of insurance, security and damage repairs.

Securing vacant property for a significant period of time

If you require to secure vacant residential or commercial property for a significant period of time, the traditional methods of property security quickly become uneconomic or  ineffective.

Using security screens or steel security shutters to board up the property for anything more than a short time, leads to the empty property quickly deteriorating. Likewise, using manned security for an period of time is both expensive and whist the property is un-heated, still leads to deterioration.

Peace of mind for property managers can be provided by the use of live in property guardians to keep the otherwise empty property occupied, heated and ventilated. The fabric of the building is protected, with the live in property guardian’s being the properties on-site eyes and ears for any maintenance issues, these can quickly be addressed before developing into a more serious issue.

Whether it is a temporary or emergency basis our vacant property specialists can help. Because vacant and unprotected properties are attractive to vandals, thieves and squatters it is vital that your vacant property is safe and secure as quickly as possible.

Newton House – Case Study

In Bristol, there are nearly 6,000 properties sitting vacant, and thousands more people are waiting for affordable housing. While local councils scramble to find solutions to the housing crisis, there is one solution to this problem that is not being utilised enough; one that can save public sector organisations money, including the police, whilst helping to provide affordable accommodation and improving community safety.

Whilst the number of people waiting for affordable housing grows nationally, there is an abundance of property within the public and commercial sector that, for whatever reason, are sitting empty that can easily be repurposed temporarily to provide affordable housing to those who need it.

When properties are left vacant, they soon fall victim to vandals and squatters, who ultimately take over the property and let it fall into disrepair. This costs owners, whom in many cases are local authorities, significant amounts of public money.

One example is Newton House, a residential care home situated in Bristol and previously under the ownership of South Gloucestershire Council.

When in early 2014 the Council ceased using the property as a residential care home, it approached Ad Hoc Property Management Ltd to manage the building on its behalf, the mandate being, through a period of repurposing and potentially new ownership to ensure its physical security and safeguarding whilst remaining, ideally, of benefit to the local community.

For the next three years, Ad Hoc Property, under the direct report and supervision of the company’s regional manager, Simon Wright, successfully managed Newton House, providing live-in Guardians who ensured the building was well-looked after.

Each of the carefully vetted Guardians paid, by market standards, an affordable licence fee, and in exchange were responsible for safeguarding the property, ensuring it was secure from illegal occupancy and damage. Local residents were delighted, secure in the knowledge that the building wouldn’t be a centre of attention for vandals or illegal occupants, together with all the associated problems.

Commented Mr John Smith, a spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council;  “Newton House in Bristol is just one example of the many positives of Guardianship for councils and other property owners. For three years, Guardians looked after and maintained it, giving us peace of mind and avoiding potential cost and damage,”

In September of 2017, Newton House was put on the market and was eventually purchased by an investment firm that takes on former care home properties. Preferring to use their normally adopted methods of vacant property safeguarding, they chose not to go down the Guardianship route.

Over time however the building has been increasingly the target of breaches and damage, to the extent that it is now a notorious call-out location for already stretched local police services. Not only has the building been occupied by squatters, but local youths have been regularly using the place to smash windows and damage fixtures, leading to numerous arrests.

“Over the past few months the place has become a real eyesore” says Jane Jones, local resident. “The place is literally covered in boards which is a like a green light to vandals. It’s intimidating and right on our doorstep.” she adds.

In Bristol last September (2017) there were a staggering 553 cases of criminal damage and arson, even before one counts the far higher number cases of anti-social behaviour which is also a consequence of vacant properties, especially in metropolitan areas.

When UK constabularies are already stretched to the limit, wanton property damage and squatting merely adds to the strain on policing resources locally, not to mention the other costs to the public purse.

The Guardianship model is attractive to public sector and commercial property owners, avoiding a near 100 per cent levy placed by the insurance sector on safeguarding a vacant property asset, plus the costs of manned security and of course repairs on top.

For private property owners, meanwhile, besides insurance premium savings, the economics also stack up, saving on community charge, which again can be levied heavily by councils when a property is not being used as living accommodation.

Vacant property guardians keeping buildings secure

Vacant property guardians

Security of vacant buildings by using Property Guardians living within the premises, keeps both the building secure and maintained. Additionally it avoids anti social behaviour such as squatting and vandalism in the neighborhood.

As soon a building is locked up and left empty it starts to deteriorate. When the heating is switched off and air ceases to circulate around the building, damp starts to accumulate and other maintenance issues if not spotted and dealt with can quickly develop into more damaging and permanent issues.

The option of using traditional security guards is only ever a temporary solution and is prohibitive to maintain over any extended period of time. Added to that, the issues of property deterioration which security alone will not solve, then property guardians are an attractive and cost effective solution for landlords.

Property Guardians keep otherwise empty properties occupied, provide protection and management. In return they gain huge savings over renting and benefit from being part of a community. Particularly attractive for key workers and young professionals looking for residential property in London or other expensive city locations who would otherwise need to travel long distances to work.

To find out more about protecting a vacant property with Guardians see our vacant property protection pages