LANDMARK JUDGEMENT IN COURT OF APPEAL CONFIRMS LEGAL STATUS OF PROPERTY GUARDIANSHIP OPERATIONAL MODEL
Leading property guardian company, Global Guardians, wins important case which will set precedent going forward to define status of property owners, guardianship companies and guardians when securing vacant property.
A unanimous judgement in the Court of Appeal, announced a few days ago, will set a precedent, and, more importantly, confirms the basis of the Licence Agreements under which guardians for Global Guardians operate to occupy and secure properties left in their care by their clients. These clients are many and varied, large and small, public and private, and include a large number of NHS Trusts, London Councils and leading Housing Associations.
The case arose when a former guardian refused to comply with the terms of the Licence Agreement she had signed when she moved into one of Global Guardians’ vacant properties (owned by an NHS Trust) to ‘protect by occupation’ under the terms of British Standard BS8584:2015. When the property owner wanted the building back, the individual was given due and proper notice to leave under the terms of her Agreement with Global Guardians. However, she refused to go and claimed she had a ‘tenancy agreement’ which conferred certain tenant’s rights to her and that the Licence Agreement she had signed had no proper legal foundation and was ‘a sham’, thereby attempting to sully the company’s considerable reputation in terms of the way they operated their business.
The Court’s decision (Global 100 Limited v Maria Laleva  EWCA Civ) effectively validates the company’s business model of using Licence Agreements for guardians’ occupancy, and defeated claims by the former guardian and her associates that their occupancy was in reality a tenancy, rather than a licence to temporarily reside in the property. This unanimous decision by Senior Judges in the Court of Appeal not only clarifies a formerly grey area in terms of guardians’ rights, but consolidates Global Guardian’s position as leaders in the field of guardian-based property protection services by taking steps to finally clarify the position, once and for all, in a Court of Law at the highest level.
In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeal closely examined Global Guardians’ proprietary form of Licence Agreement and its Property Protection Proposal with owners, as well as the system used in selecting and placing guardians in the relevant property.
The Court of Appeal was satisfied that the Licence Agreement was not a disguised lease agreement, and that the guardians’ occupancy was an essential part of their provision of guardian services at the property. Therefore, the Judges concluded that the guardians had no real prospect of establishing that they were tenants, and the County Court initially hearing the case had properly ordered that possession be granted to Global Guardians.
There are other significant aspects to the Court of Appeal’s decision that clarify the law in connection with Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), as well as property law concerning estoppel and title to property. However, the most important part of the Court’s decision is that it confirms Global Guardians and its legal team’s position on the legal relationships between property owners, the guardian company and the individual guardians – to whit it is, and has always been, correct and proper.
The case went right up to the Court of Appeal as the individual concerned and her other guardian colleagues refused to accept the previous judgements handed down, but her appeal was finally dismissed in this unanimous verdict by Lord Justice Lewison, Lady Justice Macur and Lord Justice Snowden, who also commented in the Judgement that, in their opinion, the case should never have been allowed to progress so far: “On the proper interpretation of agreement, considered in the light of the surrounding circumstances and the purpose of the agreement, the argument that it created a tenancy rather than a licence had no real prospect of success”.
Speaking after the Judgement was handed down, Stuart Woolgar, CEO of Global Guardians said: “We are all immensely pleased at this landmark legal decision as it has finally laid to rest a conflict which has bedevilled both us and our industry from time to time over the years and regrettably caused problems for us, our clients and some of our guardians. It also reassures all our clients and others in the wider property and security sector that my company has always operated to the highest ethical standards and complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law at all times with respect to our clients and our guardians, many of whom have been with us for years, happily living in and safeguarding their properties. We are, first and foremost, a property security company, not a housing supplier, although that is a by-product of our business; however, if we can provide some hard-working and deserving people with more affordable accommodation, that is always a bonus. I am delighted our reputation has been vindicated and our properties are always secured by professional and ethical personnel. We are a safe pair of hands now and in the future, with standards confirmed by the highest level of our judiciary.”
More information: Carole Graham on 07814 961995 or [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
1) Stuart is available for interview to comment further on the Judgement or other matters related to this case and property guardianship generally. Please contact Carole as above to arrange.
2) Global Guardians Management Ltd was founded in June 2011 in order to provide owners of vacant properties with a cost-effective security solution through property guardian protection. The company originated as a standalone organisation in conjunction with its sister company, a well-established building health and safety management business.
Global Guardians are now the market leader in the property guardian sector and have around 1,500 property guardians, look after c. £4bn worth of property and have more than 50% of the guardian market in London. Their clients include local authorities, the NHS, housing associations, charities and SME and FTSE 250 property developers, investors and agents. Their buildings range from one-bedroom flats, detached houses and tower blocks, to empty school buildings, churches, university campuses, retail and industrial units and many other different types of buildings waiting to be developed, re-purposes, refurbished or sold.