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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Key workers deter squatters
Disused factory
A property guardian is currently sitting this disused factory

Key workers like nurses and teachers, who cannot afford the high rents in London, are being helped by a new housing scheme.

In return for low rents they take over vacant properties, deterring vandals and squatters and ensuring good maintenance.

The scheme is being operated by property management company Camelot Properties, which calls the tenants "guardians".

It says occupying vacant property in this way saves money on security guards and means the building is better cared for.

The scheme has been so successful there is a waiting list of more than 500 people who want to take part.

It's a lot of fun and it's very very cheap which I think is a good thing
Rob Wheeldon, property guardian

Camelot's Joost Van Gestel told BBC London: "People move in with their belongings and live there for the time it is vacant.

"The signal to the neighbourhood is 'property in use, please stay away'."

Any damage caused by things such as bad weather can be reported at once and vandals are less likely to deface a building which is obviously occupied.

Also as the guardians are living there the property cannot be occupied by squatters and owners could even qualify for lower insurance premiums.

Camelot says the occupation agreement means that a guardian cannot stay in the property once a permanent occupier has been found.

The idea comes from Holland where property guardians have been placed in vacant places like banks and even a mayor's country retreat.

But not all the properties are glamorous.

Rob Wheeldon is currently sitting a disused factory in Camden, north London, which does not have any windows and is next to a train line.

But he says he is not complaining as "it's a lot of fun and it's very very cheap which I think is a good thing".

BBC London's Zack Adesina
"The idea comes from Holland where property guardians have been places in vacant spaces like banks"

Squatters take over mansion
09 Nov 02  |  England

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