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Demand rises for live-in guardians to keep empty properties safe

There is an increased demand for live-in guardians to keep empty homes secure, according to Homesitters, Britain’s largest home and pet-sitting firm.

With the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showing that the number of long-term vacant properties – those empty for at least six months – increased by 5.3% to 216,186 in the 12 months to October 2018 (the highest level since 2012), Homesitters said a growing area of their business is now providing live-guardians or caretakers for the UK’s rising number of empty residential and commercial properties.

“There are many reasons why properties are empty,” Alan Irvine, managing director of Homesitters, said. “They may be awaiting a sale, going through probate or repossession, or undergoing major renovations or refurbishment. Empty properties are vulnerable to vandalism, damage and theft. Squatters can also still legally occupy commercial premises, despite it being illegal for residential properties.”

He said the firm were increasingly working with home owners, estate agents, solicitors and banks to provide live in care-takers for a wide range of empty properties.

“A live-in guardian is a cost-effective way to keep the property secure, protecting the property value and reducing insurance premiums and maintenance costs,” Irvine continued.

“We provide live-in guardians for any length of time, from a couple of days to a few years, giving property owners or other interested parties, peace of mind that the property is being looked after and kept in good order for any viewers, visitors, contractors, future owners or occupiers.”

One couple, 67 year old Yolande and 72 year old Clive Noble from Telford in Shropshire, have been working as live-in guardians for empty properties, and as homesitters looking after people’s homes and pets when they go away, for the past 16 years – and are typically away from home for many months of the year, especially if it’s a commercial assignment.

One of their recent sits included looking after a building that was waiting to be renovated into luxury flats in Nottingham. They usually find the accommodation is fine - when they carried out the Nottingham assignment, for example, they were able to live in one of the flats – and also find the role very rewarding.

“Many of the commercial buildings and houses going through probate are quite large, so every day our routine is to check everywhere, inside and out and make sure everything is secure and ok,” Yolande Noble said.  

“Sometimes we deal with tradesmen coming in to do work or fix things. Outside of our caretaking duties, we have time to relax and enjoy a game of scrabble or two over a cup of coffee. We may then pop out to do some shopping or have a wander for an hour or so - and that’s the day gone!”

Yolande believes having caretakers in like themselves for commercial and residential buildings is hugely beneficial in terms of preventing break-ins, vandalism, fly tippers and squatters. 

“These properties are vulnerable to all sorts of damage if left unoccupied, so employing a live-in caretaker is invaluable,” she added. “Too many things can go wrong in terms of vandals and squatters, but also general maintenance issues.”

“On our most recent sit we saved the client around £300 a month because of a plumbing problem and water being continually heated, wasting a lot of calor gas. We monitored this and recommended a plumber was brought in to fix it. This saved the client a lot of money as it probably wouldn’t have been spotted for months otherwise.”

For more information on Homesitters’ live-in guardian services, you can visit www.homesitters.co.uk/commercial-sits/.

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