A former royal security guard has launched a new business designed to protect empty shops from squatters by moving in low-paying renters.
Former police officer and bodyguard Jennifer Kehoe has launched Intuitive Guardians - an agency that finds temporary occupiers for empty properties at bargain basement rates.
Miss Kehoe hopes that by encouraging residents to live in the empty commercial premises while a new use is found for them, squatters will be deterred from moving in - potentially causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and expense of legal action.
The Brighton-based businesswoman argues it is a low-cost option with property owners paying as little as £50 a week to have their property secured while prospective guardians can get living space in Brighton and Hove at a heavily reduced rate of just £50 a week.
The firm will supply basic shower block and kitchen amenities while residents moving in will be expected to bring with them everything else.
Miss Kehoe, 32, says that the business will open up a wide range of unusual locations including pubs, churches, offices, shops and former care homes for people to call home.
The company will also offer a house sitting service for people who might work away or be on holiday.
The new scheme aims to close a loop hole in 2012 legislation, campaigned for by Hove MP Mike Weatherley, which made squatting in residential properties a criminal offence but does not stop squats being set-up in commercial properties.
Brighton and Hove has seen several high-profile commercial property squats since the law's inception including the former Choccywoccydoodah shop in Duke Street last month, Montpelier Peace Baptist Church in March and the former post office in Ship Street in August last year.
Miss Kehoe said she already had ten people signed up for the fledgling company.
She is now looking for property owners to sign up to bring the scheme, which has already been successful in London and the Netherlands, to the streets of Brighton and Hove.
Miss Kehoe said: “The scheme is already quite popular in London where they have empty properties on a much bigger scale and I just thought with all the problems that Brighton has had with squatting I better bring it down here quick.
“Many owners choose to board up their premises, which looks very unsightly and also makes it very clear the property is empty and attracts unwanted attention.
“Our solution is cheaper than all the other security options.”
For more information visit www.intuitiveguardians.co.uk, www.facebook.com/intuitiveguardians or search for @intuitiveguard on Twitter.