Camelot Europe-Legalised Squatting in Ireland

March 23, 2010


My mother would always turn a paler shade of white whenever I mentioned renting a place of my own. Its not that it broke her heart to see her only child fly the coop, rather a typical Irish woman’s disdain for the rental market. So you can imagine her horror when I announced my interest in Camelot Property Management Ltd, a company that, for all intents and purposes, provides legalised squatting in Ireland.

Squatting has never been popular in Ireland. But given a spray can, a brick and a tin of petrol you’re property’s worth is never safe from a quick doing over.

Such vandalism, along with the usual leaks and decimation’s, have made unoccupied properties kryptonite to insurers who’ll insist on patrols, CCTV and night watchmen before they’ll even consider insuring them. Camelot Property Management Ltd, is a company that, for all intents and purposes, provides legalised squatting and a cheaper alternative to such costly options.

Set up in Holland to combat the serious threat of squatting, Camelot installed a number of pre vetted, key workers known as Guardians to live in these properties under a license rather than a tenancy. This way the property was protected by virtue of being occupied preventing it from being squatted in; while the license ensured that neither the building owner nor the Guardian were tied to each other for longer than the initial three-month agreement.

Camelot has proven to be a financial godsend to property owners, who through having their buildings occupied, scare off vandals and have internal damage brought to light before it’s to late. In turn Guardians get to live cheaply, in properties that would usually be far beyond their price range. Some live in €9m mansions with breathtaking views. Others in industrial units on the Naas Road. While more recently Camelot placed Guardians in a vacated convent on Dublin’s Northside.

“It’s a particular type of living,” says Hannah Doyle, 25, a graphic designer who has just finished a masters in D.I.T. “It wouldn’t suit everybody but if you have an open mind and a sense of adventure its perfect.” Hannah has been living in Woodtown Manor, a mansion just past Rathfarnam which overlooks all of Dublin since August.

“We were a bit suspect when we first got involved because we weren’t sure what the story was, but it’s almost like having your own apartment. Two minutes down the road you’re in the city but where we are is smack bang in the heart of the country.”

With cheap rents come greater responsibilities however. Guardians are expected to insure that the property is occupied at all times and immediately report any damage to the 24-hour emergency Camelot number. Parties are prohibited and for insurance purposes guests, of which there can be no more than two per person at any given time, must be cleared through a courtesy text. Camelot also runs spot checks once a month to insure that the property is being maintained.

Adrian Quinn is a 30-year-old case worker for a homeless charity. “It’s a thing that you sign up for at the beginning. Generally you’re out and you come home to a note saying ‘Checked the room, it’s all good’. So despite these little intrusions, when pitted against the benefits; “The location, the value for money, the actual property itself”; Adrian isn’t complaining.

David O Donoghue, 29, is an administrator pursuing a career as a folk musician and currently resides in a converted Christian Brothers house in. “Everything is old enough but its been well kept.”

The religious ephagies have been hidden away but the front room has ten individual green chairs, so it looks a bit odd. He says it’s a much cheaper way to live and the vetting process means that everyone knows what they are getting and there is no one dodgy.

“The level of trust when you come into a place like this is amazing. Living here gives me the opportunity to pursue my music. I mean if I lived somewhere more conventional, with people who work all the time, then you’d just piss them off, but here I have the space to go about my day without interrupting anyone elses. “

Due to the current economic climate Camelot have had to relax their stance on hiring unemployed Guardians. “Being unemployed doesn’t make you a bad guardian it’s just in time of full employment it gives you a much better barometer of the type of person you’re getting” says Aidan Devlin, the Director of the Irish branch of Camelot Property Management Ltd. “Circumstances have changed and we have changed our circumstances because we realize that there are good guardians who just can’t get jobs and that shouldn’t preclude them from being guardians.”

It wouldn’t suit everyone. People who are penicity about spider or insects or back to basic utilities are best giving it a wide berth since, more often than not, you’ll be placed in an old building. But the fact that many of Camelot’s Guardians have been with them from the beginning speaks wonders for the way of life they provide for those willing to part with life’s little comforts.

As Adrian puts it “I’m never going to live in a giant country mansion from the 17th century on 60 acres again.”

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