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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Those seeking a new place to live – especially in the private rented sector – now head online to do so. The platforms they use and adverts they see are an important source of information about the properties they will occupy and how their owners’ seek to project them. This paper aims to argue for the importance of property adverts as a source of data, using “property guardianship” to illustrate the value in the approach. Design/methodology/approach: The study draws on an analysis of 503 advertisements published on – a leading property search engine – in July 2018. Findings: The authors put forward four key areas of findings. The first two look at legal understanding, dealing with the context, the advertisement provides for eventual occupation (the “process of construction”) and any indications they provide of legal elements of occupation (“diagnostics”). The final two deal with the broader positioning of the sector, analysing the practice of excluding prospective occupiers, such as the widespread inclusion of “no Department of Social Security” seen elsewhere in the private rented sector, and how the adverts project a certain lifestyle to their viewer. Research limitations/implications: The findings demonstrate that further research into property advertisements would be valuable, particularly into other sub-markets in the private-rented sector, such as student accommodation and “professional” lets. Originality/value: This study is the only analysis of property guardian advertisements and the first dedicated study of private rented sector advertisements in the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Property, Planning and Environmental Law
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Advertisements
  • Housing
  • Licenses
  • Property guardian
  • Property guardianship
  • Property search engines

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