It’s not often that a Minister starts a sentence by thanking a political opponent for introducing an issue and then says “How right she was to raise it in the way she did in October. I’m grateful for her for that and our subsequent meetings.“ The Minister then promised action to address my concerns over the exploitation of thousands of people who act as Property Guardians. These are people who protect a property by living there with the agreement of the owners, but have none of the legal rights enjoyed by those paying rent.
The use of Property Guardians is a mutually beneficial arrangement which often protects properties waiting to be redeveloped, while giving thousands of people a free roof over their heads. I organised a special debate in the Lords last October because of a report done by Sian Berry on the issue. She found that over a thousand of these Guardians were paying rent. While others were subject to instant eviction and had no right to enforce minimum standards to ensure decent living conditions.
Research carried out by York University for the London Assembly Housing Committee, which Sian chaired, found that nearly half of PropertyGuardians had no idea how long they would be allowed to stay in their property. Living conditions can be austere. The same research found that many had no kitchen facilities at all and some had to rely on temporary shower pods for their washing facilities.
As a result of our discussions, the Minister is aiming to revise the guidance to local authorities about how they monitor these Property Guardian arrangements and enforce decent living conditions.