Protect the property guardians

An estimated 5000-7000 who live in a legal grey area as “property guardians” are being ignored by the government – these are people who become live-in security to protect commercial and residential properties during periods of vacancy. I’ve secured a parliamentary debate on Monday to call on the government to provide proper legal protections for them.
Originally seen as a win-win situation, property guardians were young professionals living in interesting building such as schools and cinemas for a low rent. This gave the property owner peace of mind while the property was vacant, at a much lower cost than hiring professional security and boarding the property up.
In London’s overheated property market, what was once a cheap lifestyle choice has now given rise to near-market rents. The GLA research, led by the Green Party’s Sian Berry, found that for many people it is their only way to afford to live and work in London.
They live in a legal quagmire and no one seems sure exactly what rights they have. Property guardians occupy under a contractual license, meaning that they don’t have any of the legal protections contained in a Tenancy Agreement. Some guardians have been kicked out of the properties with only days notice when the property has been sold. The buildings are sometimes dangerous and unsuitable for habitation – the Fire Brigade have had to shut down some of the buildings occupied by Guardians as they posed an immediate danger to life. Local Authorities, who have statutory housing functions, are unsure of their enforcement powers in relation to property guardians, while Council buildings make up approximately one fifth of those occupied by guardians.
The Government has so far resisted calls to clarify the legal rights of property guardians. Heather Wheeler MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, wrote to the Committee saying that the Government “doesn’t endorse these schemes and highlights their clear drawbacks” but nonetheless ‘people are free to make their own housing choices”.
Property guardians have an important role to play in ending the scandal of empty properties. The Government’s position is untenable – they are both denying the opportunity to house people in empty properties, and denying the rights of the people who already do so. I will be calling on the Government to amend the law to grant legal protection to property guardians, include property guardianship in their homelessness strategy, and provide clear guidance to Local Authorities and other statutory bodies.
FURTHER INFORMATION is available at the London Assembly website. It includes the Report by the Housing Committee; response from the Mayor of London; and response from the Housing Minister.
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Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill launch

July 5th is the 62nd anniversary of the first Clean Air Act becoming law

Local people and communities around the country would be able to take legal action to defend their right to clean air if the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill I introduced today became law. This week’s air pollution episode throughout England and Wales illustrates how widespread the legal actions could become, as people seek to get corporations to change their behaviour and to force councils and government bodies to reduce pollution. Continue reading “Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill launch”

Water is too precious to stay in private hands

Putting water back into public hands would not end the need for hosepipe bans, but it would make them a lot less frequent. For starters, there is over £13.5bn paid to shareholders in the past 8 years that could be spent fixing leaking pipes that leaked away 20% of the treated clean water. That’s £13.5 billion, not million. That means pipes fixed, new sewers constructed and prices held down. Continue reading “Water is too precious to stay in private hands”

The Lords take a second bite

Amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill come back to the Lords today and while the media is focused upon giving the Commons a meaningful vote over the EU negotiations, a lot of other critical issues are at stake. Deleting the Henry 8th powers is crucial if Parliament wants to genuinely take back control of power from the executive. Retaining the charter of Human Rights would show that we intend to remain a progressive and democratic country. Continue reading “The Lords take a second bite”

Waterloo Festival – rethinking the future

What will your community look like in 30 years’ time? It is a question that is always worth asking because it focuses the mind on the specifics of your home and the community immediately around it. I live at Waterloo, not far from the Coin Street community on the south bank of the Thames, so it was a joy to join with others in the area to speculate on the future shape of our bit of London. However, many of the conclusions are equally applicable to Manchester, or Dorset. We all want clean air, homes free from flooding and roads not jammed with cars. Continue reading “Waterloo Festival – rethinking the future”

Tuesday’s crucial EU vote in the Commons

MPs will vote on 15 key Lord’s amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill on Tuesday and all of them are crucial to the post Brexit future of the UK. While a lot of focus in the media is on the Lords’ amendment giving Parliament a final say if the negotiations break down, there are other issues that only greens will make a priority. Continue reading “Tuesday’s crucial EU vote in the Commons”