Un­der one roof

The prop­erty guardians

The Guardian - Weekend - - Family -

Char­lotte Foun­taine, 27 (on left) I’m a master’s stu­dent try­ing to avoid London’s ex­tor­tion­ate rents, so prop­erty guardian­ship – a scheme that means you oc­cupy a home and keep it in good con­di­tion and free of squat­ters – is per­fect. You trade the se­cu­rity of a te­nancy for cheap rent, and must do 16 hours of vol­un­teer­ing a month. I en­joy men­tor­ing at a nearby school; my flat­mate Keri gar­dens at a lo­cal grave­yard.

When we moved in 18 months ago, we didn’t know each other (an agency put us to­gether) but we met over a cup of tea in the liv­ing room and got chat­ting about decor. The place was empty, a blank can­vas, but I’m handy with a paint­brush and Keri is good with a drill. I sewed cush­ions, we found a free sofa on an app and our ra­dio was dis­cov­ered by a canal. We bought a cooker to­gether and it felt spe­cial, as if we’re both equally in­vested now.

Keri Ar­rindell, 32

My friends’ ex­pe­ri­ences of prop­erty guardian­ship were pos­i­tive, so I de­cided to give it a try.

Gig­ging with my band means I’m rarely around in the evenings, so some­times I see Char­lotte four days in a row and then not at all for the next three. I’ve learned to creep back in at 4am so I don’t wake her. Of­ten, she gets in from work and we’re re­hears­ing in the liv­ing room, equip­ment ev­ery­where. When I get in, she’ll be work­ing on a zine with her friends. It’s a cre­ative at­mos­phere.

The few times we catch each other in the kitchen for an hour or so, we’re back where we started, ex­chang­ing boyfriend dilem­mas over a cup of tea. Our flat has been a good deal for me; it won’t last for ever, but I’m hop­ing to make it long term while I save for a de­posit. In the mean­time, it feels like home.

You trade the se­cu­rity of a te­nancy for cheap rent

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