As housing markets tighten and city living grows increasingly expensive, prospective tenants across the UK are looking for unconventional, affordable solutions. One emerging trend is property guardianship, an arrangement where individuals take up residence in vacant properties—often repurposed commercial spaces—in return for maintaining and safeguarding the premises. This alternative living approach offers a win-win situation for both property owners and potential occupants. This in-depth article by experienced estate agents serving Bishops Cleeve and nearby areas illuminates the nuances and complexities of property guardianship, providing essential insights for those considering this unique living arrangement.

The Genesis of Property Guardianship:

Property guardianship is born out of a need to simultaneously tackle two significant urban issues: the rising cost of living and the growing number of vacant properties. The idea is ingenious in its simplicity; by granting individuals or ‘guardians’ the right to inhabit and maintain empty buildings in exchange for a reduced fee, guardianship schemes maximise the use of available resources while providing affordable housing options. This innovative solution offers an exciting opportunity to enjoy an affordable lifestyle without compromising the vibrancy and convenience of city living.

Types of Guardianship Properties:

Guardianship properties vary widely, encompassing everything from commercial units and warehouses to public buildings and traditional residences. Commercial properties might once have functioned as offices, pubs, or retail units before being converted into makeshift homes. They might not embody typical residences but offer unique living spaces that can be creatively tailored to the guardians’ lifestyle. These spaces often come with large floor plans and unique architectural elements, which can lend an individualistic touch to your living environment.

Residential properties, on the other hand, can range from detached houses to flats that have been left vacant for one reason or another. These offer a more familiar living setup but often come with the added responsibility of maintaining a larger space, and sometimes, the charm of historical characteristics.

Navigating the Legal Terrain: Property Guardianship Agreements

Understanding the legal frameworks that underpin property guardianship is crucial for both owners and guardians. Two forms of agreement govern this living arrangement: ‘licence to occupy’ and ‘tenancy’. The ‘licence to occupy’ is a non-exclusive agreement providing the right to inhabit the property in exchange for a fee or performance of a service. This arrangement does not give the occupant exclusive possession, and the relationship remains that of a licensor and licensee rather than a landlord and tenant.

On the other hand, a ‘tenancy’ agreement offers the tenant exclusive possession of the premises for a specified period in return for rent. This agreement establishes a formal landlord-tenant relationship, providing the tenant with more legal rights and protections. Understanding the type of agreement you are entering into can profoundly influence your guardianship experience.

Licence to Occupy vs Tenancy: Knowing the Difference

While both agreements grant the right to occupy a property, there are essential distinctions to be aware of. A property guardian operating under a licence agreement—though this is the most common setup—has fewer rights than a tenant under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). For instance, the protections offered by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 in terms of property repairs do not extend to guardians. Consequently, property guardian companies are under no obligation to carry out repairs unless explicitly stated in the agreement. Also, unlike in a tenancy, the licensor does not need to provide notice before entering the premises.

The Perks of Property Guardianship:

Despite the unique challenges and responsibilities that come with property guardianship, it also offers several advantages. Perhaps the most appealing benefit is the cost-effectiveness. Guardian fees are significantly lower than conventional rents, making it an attractive proposition for people struggling with the high costs of urban living.

Guardianship also enables residents to live in otherwise inaccessible areas, potentially opening doors to central city locations that would ordinarily be far beyond their financial reach. Moreover, it contributes to societal sustainability by ensuring that empty properties are utilised, thereby reducing waste and inefficiency. This adds another layer of satisfaction for guardians who are passionate about contributing positively to the environment.


Property guardianship comes with unique opportunities: the chance to live in otherwise prohibitively expensive or creatively stimulating spaces and to contribute to a more efficient use of urban properties. With a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of property guardianship, you can navigate this fascinating living arrangement effectively and enjoy the fruits of your endeavour while remaining well-protected legally. The future of city living might just be hinged on innovative housing solutions like property guardianship.