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Bristol City Council bans use of property guardian schemes for its empty buildings

Developers are being urged to tread cautiously if considering using property guardians to look after their empty properties after Bristol City Council announced it will stop using them in the future.

Now, sadly, the message could be that if you want to protect an unused building until you’re ready to start renovation work it might actually be more straightforward to invest in security guards and boarding up materials rather than using a property guardian scheme.

Problems

Bristol City Council’s move follows a tumultuous six months and problems with one particular company, Camelot Property Guardians, which it had engaged to provide guardians for a former nursing home.

When Camelot served eviction notices on the 30 or so guardians living there so that the Council could demolish the building, one occupant challenged the notice he’d been given and a judge agreed he was right to do so, ruling he was a de facto tenant and the ‘licence’ he’d signed to live in the nursing home three years earlier, actually amounted to a legal tenancy.

It is decision which could pave the way for thousands of property guardians across the country to be legally regarded as short-hold, official, private tenants, and thus create a catalogue of problems for landlords.

Ensuring re-development not delayed

Now the City Council’s housing chief, Paul Smith, has spoken out. “We have plans for most of the sites currently being used as guardianship properties and we need to make sure that we do not hold up re-development by being unable to obtain vacant possession of the buildings,” he said.

“For this reason it is being proposed that we begin a managed withdrawal from all of our current guardianship schemes, to make the best use of the land we have for housing, education and social care.

“It is also being recommended that the council do not enter into any other commercial guardianship schemes in future, however, this would not affect the charity guardianship programmes which offer temporary accommodation for homeless people.”

More allegations

Since the court case, there have also been allegations by residents at another Bristol City Council property of ill-treatment by Camelot.

Councillor Paul Smith added: “These property guardian schemes were supposed to be about security but they were made into a way to house people on a much larger scale than they should have been.

“The council had taken its eye off the ball. It had moved away significantly from these companies providing security, and we were concerned at the conditions when it was first revealed before Christmas.”

  • To see what Wards Solicitors has previously written about this case, please click here

For further help, please contact Wards Solicitors’ commercial building dispute specialist James Murray

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