So I moved house. But not actually ‘house’ as such. We moved into an old ‘seminar/conference/boardroom’. With blue carpet tiles, fluorescent lights and blue pinboards across the walls. Yet, you have heard me correctly. This will be ‘home’ for the next few months. A room that is probably similar in size to our current one bed flat but not technically a ‘flat’ in itself.
In England, as in South Africa and indeed many parts of the world, squatting is a problem. If not squatters, vandals who either break bits of a deserted building up for fun or who ravish it for what they can sell as scrap.
In the UK a few companies have come up with a creative solution to prevent this. Effectively, legal squatting. They are put in place by the landowner to protect the property from being vandalised or worse occupied by undesirables you can’t later evict.
The companies take over offices, schools, care homes, usually sizable buildings to make the effort worthwhile. They then rent out the spaces to random people who want to pay less on accommodation and don’t mind roughing it a bit. This means communal toilets, kitchens and bathrooms. This means travelling light because you may have to move within 2 weeks or a month’s notice. This means your bedroom/living room may once have been a chemistry lab and so be it on your head if you come up against a swab of chemicals when you brush up against the wall.
Technically it is not ‘rent’ as there is no change of use application put in. It’s a ‘licensing agreement’ whereby you sign away a lot of your traditional rights as tenants for this free and easy lifestyle which involves never having candles on the premise in case of setting fire to the building you are ‘guardian’ to. I can see a program like this going very wrong or very right in Africa.
It does mean you stay for a lot cheaper (and scruffier because you get what you pay for). It makes moving from the place fairly easy as there are no complicated estate agent fees and rules beyond a basic credit check and deposit. It means you don’t have bills to pay but you probably also can’t get the internet wired in (a trauma for someone used to unlimited broadband) and your post will probably permanently go missing. It means post it notes from random people to other random people saying ‘you are not eight, don’t pee on the toilet seat’. It means not leaving your shower gel in the bathroom for too long if you expect the amount of soap in it to be approximately where you left it last.
It will be an adventure…