Monday, 29 November 2010

Ad Hoc Property Guardians and my deposit

I thought I was onto a good thing, maybe I was. You might have heard about property guardians, there was a bit of coverage in the newspapers last summer, but not so much now. If a property like a house or block of flats or offices or whatever is empty, and going to be empty for a while, then instead of hiring a security firm to keep squatters and vandals out, the landlord can hire a live-in property guardian.

The landlord gets someone taking care of the property, the guardian gets cheap accommodation.

I was a guardian with Ad Hoc, one of the two big firms in London. I was paying £50 or so a week and it was okay. Sure the properties were shit holes, but it was cheap and I was skint. The deposit was £300, my overdraft took care of that.

The first place I stayed at was a former council flat in Sudbury. It was freezing and didn't have the gas hooked up for about a month after I moved in last winter. The building was to be demolished in 'about eighteen months'. The other tenants were slowly being moved out whilst I stayed. I started to do the place up, got some bookshelves from Ikea, acquired a fridge freezer, even started painting the walls.

Alas, after three months I was given my notice and found a new place to be a guardian at. That council flat has now been demolished, I drive past the site every so often, the paint was barely dry.

The second place was a rather neat three bedroom semi-detached house in Wembley, right near the station. It had a huge garden, thick with brambles, but it was summer and I was 'between jobs'. There was no heating there either, no gas too, but the weather was fine, so I didn't mind so much. I think they said I would have six months there so I acquired gardening equipment and set to work clearing brambles and putting in potatoes and tomatoes.

Alas, after four weeks I was given my notice and again found a new place to be a guardian at. There's now about ten people living in that semi-, the living room and dining room been turned into additional bedrooms. I wonder if they've got to my potatoes.

The third place was a former old people's home. There were about twenty other guardians staying there in the various granny flats. My flat was on the ground floor and smelt bad. I knew better than to set up home there and kept most of my belongings in storage a storage locker.

Months passed, with such low rent, I was able to start tackling my considerable debts.

At some point, I don't know what came over me, but I grew weary of sleeping on the floor, sitting on banana boxes and not having anywhere to shelve my books, so I emptied out my storage locker and furnished my flat. Less than a week later we were given our notice and told to leave.

Sure, Ad Hoc were quick to find all the guardians new places to stay, offering empty properties round the A406 North Circular Road of out in East London, but the thought of living with the constant threat of having to move on was too depressing so I decided to move to the private rental market. You go to RightMove.co.uk, figure out how much rent you can afford and move to the best property that comes up.<

When I told the nice woman at Ad Hoc that I wasn't going to move into their next place she seemed disappointed.

It was a good deal while it lasted, £50 a week rent, in London, but never knowing how long I'd be at any property.

Anyhoo, its been about eight weeks since I moved out, I'm still chasing up getting my deposit back. I've been phoning them every week, it sounds much like the other guardians at that last place are still trying to get their deposits back too, but to no avail. They have my account details, their accountant has apparently been on the case for at least a fortnight, but still nothing.

They've got my £300 and they seem to be incapable or unwilling to give it back.

Should I have written off the deposit? Or just not have paid my last six week's rent? Is that the more civilized or sensible thing to do?

There's been no word about whether they're taking a cut of the deposit to clean and repair any wear and tear, but it's been eight weeks so that's a moot point now.

If they weren't going to return the deposit could they have not made it clear at some point in the past, or charged a higher rent. But no, just an endless stream of we're working on it, you'll having by the end of the week, the end of next week, etc. It's not so much that they're withholding it, just not competent enough to arrange giving me my money back.

**UPDATE**
Yay, I got my deposit back! It took eight weeks and three days, and they did take a small cut, for cleaning I guess which is fair enough.

Anyhoo, success!

15 comments:

  1. my grandson is a Ad Hoc guardian at a large public house, in West Yorks, rent is cheap, includes gas electric rates, refuse removal. Place is disgusting. my husband spent 2 days mending burglar alarm, mending gas cooker, removing rubbish/clothes/furniture, from previous occupants, and trying to make it habitable. There are mice, rats, loads bedrooms, and all pub to keep clean. I am 66, husband 68, twice a week I visit, clean bathrooms/kitchens/toilets/bedrooms/pub lounges/snug/games room etc.Property has been declared empty, by guess who, so no meter readings for electric, no refuse removal, so more mice and rats. We have phoned and reported a broken window, and a cracked window, damaged exterior blind on smoking shelter, dangerous external glass door, blowing in the wind, has any repairs been done-nothing. Grandson put lock on bedroom door, and hoc manager, bust it open, for no reason. Ad hoc now taking grandson to court for not looking after property, it is a joke, good job I have got photo evidence of property. There is no communication, head office London say they are only finances. I phoned every 30 mins for 2 days, left 15 messages on answer phone, nothing. My solicitor cannot make contact. This company charges a hefty fee for management of empty property, nothing is looked after, everything is neglected including the tenants. If you have empty property think very carefully about this company,

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  2. If an accident happens, the landlord’s insurance will not cover your loss. Your local insurer will be able to point you in the right direction with getting Houses to let in Edinburgh insured against accidental losses.

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  3. I have been a property guardian at an Ad Hoc property in the Midlands, and yes the cost to live there is low, but the complete lack of communication from any employees of Ad Hoc, plus their complete disregard for the wellbeing of those living in their premises is disgusting.

    After having moved in, about a week later it was decided by Ad Hoc that the lock on the door was insufficient. So they changed the lock. Baring in mind three persons lived at the property, they decided to get three keys cut. However they also decided that they needed to retain a key. As I was out on the day the lock was changed, I missed out on getting a key. I spent a week of having to contact the other residents and find out when they were in so I could get in, and was even locked out overnight, as they sent the wrong key to me and stated categorically in no way was I allowed to get an extra key cut!

    Another resident had her car broken into, one had his bike damaged, and we even had a break in downstairs - all after they had come in and switched off the CCTV that was previously recording - I mean what's the point in having us in there as security if you're going to switch off the CCTV?!

    When it came to moving out, I ended up having to stay a day extra because they changed the locks before I could get all of my items out (before our last day on our contract!) and when trying to contact them regarding this, I could not get hold of any persons on the numbers I had, resorting to leaving a message (!) on the emergency contact number. It was a complete joke.

    I'm still waiting for my deposit to be returned. I will be making A LOT of noise if it's not the full deposit, as at no point have I been informed that there would be any reduction. However, at no point have I been informed anything. My emails are always unanswered. Three times they've asked for my bank details to pay it back, but I have not received the deposit returned as yet.

    Their whole company is a joke. Run properly, and it could be incredibly beneficial to lower income persons, and be a social enterprise champion. Sadly, it appears that their employees are unqualified to be doing any type of work, let alone customer-facing, their finance department is a shambles, and the whole company is a complete joke.

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  4. I'm afraid you'll find a great many guardian agencies operate the same way. I too used to live with Ad Hoc 5 years ago.. since then I've also lived with Camelot, Newbould and just moved in with VPS. I have friends who have lived with Live-In Guardians, Oaksure and Global Guardians. With the exception of Oaksure, the rest have all proved very similar in terms of very poor management, with finance departments all in shambles.

    Guardians are frequently not paid back their full deposits in a timely manner, agents don't respond to emails regarding maintenance or other concerns, some proudly evict guardians with less than 28 days notice which is in violation of UK law... a fact which many agencies themselves seem to be ignorant of.

    If anyone reading this has been a guardian and wants to share their story, please feel free to get in touch via a new Facebook discussion group we started up. https://www.facebook.com/propertyguardianslondon

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  5. It is really very good post about Property Management, thanks for sharing a helpful knowledge.

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  6. we can get lots knowledge and information to read this type of blogs .
    great writing you have fantastic knowledge about property guardians thanks .

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  7. Global guardians are a greedy heartless corporation. We've been guardians in a property in Stoke Newington fot 5 years with another property management company (Camelot) and Global Guardians have won it of Hackney council recently - they have now practically doubled all prices and want £700.00 a month for a single large room and £400 for a room that only a bed fits into 3 x 2 meter. They won't negotiate with us and I and the others won't be able to afford to live here anymore. Furthermore, they are renting out any nook and cranny - so there will be overcrowding. Don't go with them - there are much better companies out there - you will be supporting corporate greed and the terrible price developments on the market. As a guardian you have not the same right of comforts as a tenant and you are providing a service - protecting a property- that should be reflected in the price. I've been with Camelot and found them okay. Whilst it is true that they tend to take a long time to get around to doing repairs they'll do them in the end and I believe they are working on improving this at present. I think they aren't too bad and I believe they are improving. And one can negotiate and talk with them. When a fellow guardian lost his job they understood and gave him a special deal until he managed to sort himself out. Some landlords can be pretty awful too and so can random flat mates. Personally I feel better as a guardian. Prices are mad out there now and I foresee trouble coming. meanwhile the boat population and mobile home population is rising.
    Like · Reply · 21 mins
    Katja Heber · Middlesex University London
    I wanted to add that I liked my house mates. An upcoming very talented musician, a young confused female working on finding herself and her destination in life, an older very talented female artist and photographer trying to get enough money for more equipment and to enable her to take time off to complete projects and develop her business, a film maker, a lovely couple where one half just completed a career change which came with a considerable drop in income - all working pretty much full time and more. We did, however, also had to share with a constant stream of youngsters that were on an internship with Camelot - and it wasn't always easy to get them to do their fair share of cleaning.
    And in the building I was in before - an empty care home in Leyton - the people were okay as well. The buildings I lived in so far were respectable enough.

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  8. I was in the past with a few guardian companies, I am currently with Oaksure and they are by far the worst. They put people in horrible conditions and only care about getting the money. They have a tel no nobody ever answers and don't care about the people that live in their properties. Global is expensive (they more less market level prices without tenants' rights), but they are quick to repair and communicate to guardians. They are also appreciative of the work guardians do.

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  9. Camelot property never ever reply to emails or voicemail. A ghost company.

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  10. The situation with London property Guardians is complicated - there’s shades of light as well as dark. All the stories above are too familiar and sound consistent with my experience of being a guardian over the last 5+ years. We had the ceiling cave in above our beds while we slept. It just buckled under the weight of flood water that had built up on the floor above. Camelot thought that they could secure and maintain an ex-mental health care facility by occupying the ground floor of the property while locking off all the floors above. Camelot’s so called ‘emergency line’, reluctantly manned by one of their unpaid interns was as useless as you’d expect an unpaid intern to be at 4am. When the fire brigade came round, within the time it took to drink a cup of tea, they went from being utterly bemused by our lifestyle to asking if they could move in with us.

    The property management companies’ utter ineptness is actually a blessing. Compared to landlords in the rental market, they’re unable to enforce their own rules. This means the wise guardian soon sees there’s a freedom to forget all of their rules and live the way you think is right. If you are even slightly handy with a few basic tools you can do a great deal. Having to move a short notice is a painful disruption which is somewhat mitigated by friends, £20/hr Lutons (with driver!) and a routine. We’ve built amazing homes everywhere we’ve been and our parties are the best. We turn neglected space into gardens where we grow whatever we want – making the most of the building and each other is our priority, not fussing about the management company. Their only useful purpose is to unite all guardians in a contempt that boarders on hatred – we have a shared enemy and that’s our common cause. Its almost feudal: the virtuous, artistic, hardworking guardians vs. the rude, incompetent, rent-seeking property management firms.

    But that view is too simple and there’s an irony here that’s worth pointing out. Camelot were the first company to crack the guardian market in London and since then other companies have been started. They’ve mostly been started by ex-Camelot Guardians who think they can do a better job. The bar is set very low (just in case that’s not clear by now!) so it’s not difficult to set up a viable company which aims to be ethical. That’s why so many have sprouted up in London over the last few years. But the rot soon sets in. The sector is totally unregulated – we fall through the legislative gap between tenants and residents and our legal status has not yet been tested in the courts. The rot sets in and they become cowboys who don’t answer emails or return phone calls. Our current contract commits us to “at least one license fee increase per year, of at least x per cent” – so they really do have us by the balls.

    It’s a sad state of affairs but we are far from powerless. I have some ideas for a long term strategy and I’m sure other people will be thinking along the same lines. Most of these buildings are state owned or ex-state owned which have recently been sold off cheap to property developers. They are public property and my view is that they should benefit to the community while they wait for development. It could be done through a network of self-organising communities who support one another. No extra cost to the tax payer lots of benefits to everyone other than this little bunch of bandits who are getting rich on the desperation of London’s property market.

    The political wind is starting to blow in our favour.

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  11. i been living on a oaksure property and i will recommend oaksure to anyone wanting to become a guardian, they were helpful with any issue that we had.

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  14. The legal decision of Camelot v Roydon is available here.
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