Camelot Bristol Guardian developments

Property guardianship has frequently made the headlines in Bristol over the last few months. Most recently when the local council expressed its intention to formally phase out property guardianship in council owned properties.

Camelot’s previous Guardian court case

The bad press for property guardianship in Bristol stemmed from a ‘key’ judgment handed down in Bristol County Court in February this year. One of our former property guardians, Mr Roynon, was deemed to be an assured shorthold tenant as opposed to a licensee in a former care home. We were naturally extremely disappointed with this decision as it was one that we had never encountered before after over [20] years of experience within the sector throughout Europe. For commercial reasons and upon the advice of our experienced legal team, we decided not to appeal the decision and focused our efforts on securing vacant possession in order to handback the property in question to the council.

We should point out that this judgment was fact-specific, was a County Court as opposed to Appellate judgment and each decision will always turn on its own facts. It certainly does not mean that all future judgments are destined to go the same way and we are delighted to confirm that this has not been the case with another property guardian who occupied the exact same property and under the same circumstances.

Recent case developments regarding another Guardian

Like Mr Roynon, Ms Gontes refused to leave the property (despite making several unsubstantiated complaints to the council about the poor conditions). She occupied the same property with us, under an agreement based on the same terms and under the same circumstances as Mr Roynon. Therefore, after the previous judgment, she might have thought she was in a strong negotiating position with us and we would simply pay her to go?

We stuck true to our business model and in court, argued that Ms Gontes occupied Broomhill under a licence agreement and that she was now a trespasser.

On 24 July 2017 (5 months after the Roynon decision in the exact same court), the Judge agreed that Ms Gontes was in fact a licensee. We were so pleased with this outcome as it was a decision based on, essentially, the same facts as Mr Roynon yet with a decision that echoes our vast experience in this sector. The court also ordered Ms Gontes to repay all her arrears and legal costs associated with the proceedings totalling over £6,500. It also gave us permission to transfer up to the High Court for enforcement which we have already actioned.

It is clear that the Roynon decision, was an anomaly and not the death knell of the business model that so many of us feared. Other property guardians in Bristol have already openly aired their concerns that they will now be made homeless if the council continues its plans to phase out property guardianship. This is a real shame.

Steps to be taken next…

Despite the recent Gontes decision, we are not complacent. We know that for whatever reason in respect of Mr Roynon, something went wrong and that our property guardians were simply not happy. Here at Camelot, that is not what we are about. We are focussed on providing service excellence through high quality staff using innovative and quality solutions to support our client’s needs throughout the vacant property lifestyle and strive to be the leading vacant property specialise in Europe. If our guardians are not happy, we are not happy. Going forward, we plan to focus on re-building our relationships with existing property guardians (and creating strong new ones) and ensure that property guardians understand the lifestyle that they are buying into. Property guardianship isn’t for everyone. The nature of the licence agreement and business model means that the arrangement is temporary in nature (as the owner of the empty property may need it back for redevelopment), shared occupation is almost a definite and you must be flexible to move on short notice. What this does mean is that you get the chance to occupy lots of quirky buildings, meet new friends along the way, become part of the guardianship community and can save money in the process because of the cheaper rates in return for the temporary nature of the model. That’s before we have even started on the benefits for the building owner and the wider community…

Now that these difficult times are over, we will focus on highlighting the success and importance of property guardianship to the world whilst maintaining the utmost professional standards for our guardians and clients.

Find out more about Camelot Europe and the Property Guardian model