Matt and I have moved from Chorleywood and are now living in an old police station as building/property guardians. Guardian is a sick ass title, I feel like I’m protecting the city from danger. What it means in practice is that we pay the property guardianship company an amount every month in order to have a license to live here. This means we are not tenants, and therefore are not afforded the same rights as tenants. Even though in practical terms what we are paying is our rent, legally it is a fee for our license to live here.
There are obvious positives and negatives to the situation.
Positive – I like living in an unusual building, and there is a lot of space. As a former police station there are cells, interrogation rooms and big communal areas. There is also a killer roof space.
Negative – The property guardianship company doesn’t have the same responsibilities towards us as a landlord would have. There are currently two showers intended for twenty people. There is a door outside our room labelled as a bathroom/shower room which contains a sink that has been knocked off the wall and a toilet. NOT THE SAME THING.
Positive – Coming from a large family, I like a house full of people and so far it looks like we are lucky enough to be living with an interesting group.
Negative – It’s difficult to get on with everyone no matter how good your intentions.
Positive – The rent is a lot cheaper than a normal flat, and the space we have access to is much larger. Rent is extortionate in London and people line up to pay it. Doing this is a relief financially.
Negative – There is a genuine housing crisis here and whilst this solution is working for us right now at this stage in our lives, it is not a fair way of providing housing for people who need it. We have fewer rights than tenants and have to accept bigger risks and responsibilities. Schemes like this are useful but are making it more acceptable to strip away protections which have been built into the law to protect tenants, because we are not legally tenants. Tenants are protected by law because people who own property have such a financial advantage over those who need to lease it. Especially somewhere like London where there are many people eager to take your place. We have to enter into contracts which contain terms we are not comfortable with, and are massively tilted in favour of the property company, because we need a place to live more than they need us as tenants.
Pros and cons aside, it is our decision to live here and I am happy with it. The building is safe and warm, even if the facilities are limited. It wouldn’t suit everyone but for now I’m pleased to call it home.