No children, no DSS, no students: online adverts and “property guardianship”

Publication Date03 Oct 2019
AuthorJed Meers,Caroline Hunter
SubjectProperty management & built environment
No children, no DSS, no students:
online adverts and
property guardianship
Jed Meers and Caroline Hunter
York Law School, University of York, York, UK
Purpose Those seekinga new place to live especiallyin the private rented sector now head online to do
so. The platforms they use and adverts they see are an important source of informationabout the properties
they will occupy and how their ownersseek to projectthem. This paper aims to argue for the importance of
propertyadverts as a source of data, using property guardianshipto illustratethe value in the approach.
Design/methodology/approach The study draws on an analysisof 503 advertisements published on leading property search engine in July 2018.
Findings The authors put forward four key areas of ndings. The rsttwo look at legal understanding,
dealing with the context, the advertisement provides for eventual occupation (the process of construction)
and any indications they provide of legalelements of occupation (diagnostics). The nal two deal with the
broader positioning of the sector, analysing the practice of excluding prospective occupiers, such as the
widespread inclusion of noDepartment of Social Securityseen elsewhere in the private rented sector,and
how the advertsproject a certain lifestyle to their viewer.
Research limitations/implications The ndings demonstrate that further research into property
advertisements would be valuable, particularly into other sub-markets in the private-rented sector, such as
student accommodationand professionallets.
Originality/value This study is the only analysis of property guardian advertisements and the rst
dedicatedstudy of private rented sector advertisements in the UK.
Keywords Advertisements, Housing, Licenses, Property guardian, Property guardianship,
Property search engines
Paper type Research paper
Estate agents suffer from a reputationproblem. As argued by Pryce and Oates (2008,p.320)
with understatement, they arenot impartial information disseminators. Their adverts use
language to capture a dialogue of aspiration, communicating a lifestyle and key
information about the property to the viewer (Pryce and Oates, 2008, p. 320). Small
becomes bijou. It is not derelict, but a period property. Although the home ownership
sector, with its glossy sales brochures from house builders and estate agents
advertisements,has been a rich terrain for research, adverts in the privaterented sector have
been subject to far less(if any) scrutiny.
In a market dominated by online property search engines such as Rightmove, Zoopla
and SpareRoom the text in these advertsis central to the modern process of nding a home
to rent. We argue that adverts for properties to rent warrantanalysis in their own right, both
by lawyers and those analysing the private rented sector. They not only reveal key
information about the property and how its advertiser seeksto present it but also a part of
the context in which the agreement to occupy is made and can offer evidence of its likely
terms. As landlords, letting agents, student accommodation providers and other players,
Online adverts
and property
Received30 April 2019
Revised7 June 2019
Accepted28 June 2019
Journalof Property, Planning and
Vol.11 No. 3, 2019
pp. 217-229
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JPPEL-04-2019-0023
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