Property guardians moving in

CIVIC chiefs are using guardian tenants to live in empty council-owned buildings in a bid to deter vandals.

Hartlepool Borough Council has signed a deal with Ad Hoc Property Management to provide tenants to live in a number of empty properties in town.

The tenants have been labelled “guardians” and the idea is for them to deter thieves and vandals from targeting empty buildings.

The properties being managed by Ad Hoc are Jesmond Road School caretaker’s house and the former family resource centre in Somersby Close.

More properties are expected to be included in the future.

Officers say the guardians are vetted by the management company and they are either in employment or are pensioners.

Labour councillor Robbie Payne, portfolio holder for finance and procurement, will discuss the proposals at a meeting tomorrow.

A report said: “The council has a security contract to provide mobile or static guards. But in this case static guards would be expensive and in the case of mobile patrols not as effective to mitigate against internal and external damage to our properties.

“This method of securing properties works by keeping the buildings occupied by temporary residents whose presence deters thieves and vandals.

“Any repair needs and other issues are reported quickly and can be dealt with before serious avoidable damage occurs.”

While a property is occupied by a guardian, the council is responsible for utilities, rates and essential repairs. But officers say it costs “substantially” less than paying for security cover.

They say that while every effort is made to ensure properties are not left empty for a long time, sometimes it is unavoidable.

A similar arrangement, which includes a four-week written notice period, was used at Tunstall Court in 2003 with a different provider.