A council building which officials called a serious health and safety risk and unfit for housing is being advertised for £600pcm a room.
The property on St Mary’s Road in Nunhead was previously a careers service for young people.
The service was moved in November 2018 because the building “posed serious health and safety risks” for staff and users.
Officials decided they could not convert the semi-detached Victorian house into modern housing because it is “unfit for any operational purpose including affordable housing” and would require too much investment.
The council is using the services of private property guardianship company Global Guardians to license space in the building for £600pcm.
Property guardians do not have the same rights as tenants, and the government says it does not “endorse or encourage” the use of guardianships as housing tenure.
However, guardianships, while often less secure than tenancies, can provide housing in disused public buildings at below-market rents in expensive areas.
This also allows buildings to be secured. Southwark Council is in moves to sell its freehold of the building, after a Cabinet meeting earlier this month.
“The council concluded the condition of the building meant it didn’t meet ours, or our tenants’, requirements for decent home standards without significant investment,” said Southwark’s Cllr Victoria Mills.
“Property guardian companies however hold a different set of standards and requirements and their contracts and rents usually reflect that.
“Whilst we only use guardians in exceptional circumstances, and only work with reputable companies who we monitor closely, the council is very clear that it is the company’s responsibility to undertake its own due diligence and health and safety checks to make sure it is habitable and safe for their guardians.”
The CEO of Global Guardians, Stuart Woolgar, said the company could not comment on specific properties, and said the News was “stirring up unnecessary and unfounded drama.”
“Every property where we provide protection by occupation, everything we do as an organisation, is carried out in accordance with British Standard BS8584:2015 Vacant Property Protection and current health and safety regulations,” he said.
“All properties we manage adhere to a strict, ongoing, compliance regime and no property guardian is at risk of any form of health and safety issue, whilst providing security for the property.”