#CameSquat Statement: Property Guardian Camelot HQ occupiers speak out
The occupiers of the wealthy property guardians Camelot HQ have released a statement in response to recent mainstream media misinformation over their ongoing occupation raising awareness of the growing UK housing crisis.
The offices at 20 Westland Place were squatted last week, and remain so, much to the embarassment of Camelot. They are a security company which specialises in offering “property guardian” services, but failed to secure their own building after moving their office to another address. It is hoped that the occupation will help to highlight the issues around property guardianship, and the rise in this new, precarious form of housing, first introduced to the UK by Camelot themselves, who started life in the Netherlands as an “anti-kraak” (anti-squat) company.
When Camelot heard about the occupation, their reaction was heavy-handed. Their agent informed the occupiers that rather than go to court to secure their eviction (the normal process for dealing with squatters) he would use “other methods”. It became apparent that by this he meant violent methods. Camelot security guards attempted to besiege the occupiers, and starve them out. They then turned their physical force and aggression on the many people who turned up outside to support the occupation. The siege situation went on for three days and nights. Camelot at one point had over thirty guards and three security dog units outside the building. Eventually the police advised them that yes, they would have to seek possession via the court, and they backed down.
Having received a lot of negative publicity about their treatment of the homeless people occupying the building, Camelot Spin Doctors then put out the story that they would allow the occupiers to stay with some kind of licence, or permission for an art space. And invited some of the media along to witness a meeting with the occupiers on Monday 3rd. What they didn’t make clear to the media was that this would only happen if the occupiers agreed to a number of restrictions. The first would have been to remove any displays of information about the issues of homelessness and property guardianship, the reasons for occupying this office in the first place. The others were the same restrictions that Camelot places on all of their property guardians – about no one allowed to stay overnight, about having no more than two visitors at a time, about smoking, about pets – and again, something else that this occupation aims to highlight.
Camelot and the other property guardian companies make a lot of money out of people who have limited housing options. They effectively work for Camelot, but pay for the privilege of doing so. Property guardians in London are currently charged a fee of up to £750 a month for a room in a building that may not have many facilities, and a very precarious existence. Property guardians are often told to leave with very little notice (less time than the law requires). Camelot don’t guarantee that they’ll assign them to another building when that happens. People pay a deposit (of between £500-1000) to the property guardian company, but often encounter problems when it comes to getting it back.
Property guardian companies describe what they offer as “affordable” housing. Councils and other big landlords in routinely try to tell us that “affordable” can mean as high as 80% of “market rent”. Most of us know what a joke that is. Needless to say, no meeting will go ahead this Monday. There is no way the squatters can envisage doing a deal with a company like this. There are thousands of empty buildings in this country, more than would be needed to house the many people who are homeless. Many of them are left empty deliberately, for example by property speculators who know they will profit from rising property prices whether or not the building is used. What is needed is a way for communities to challenge those owners, requisition buildings and put them to use, a traditional function of squatting.
No wonder Camelot and other guardian companies have been at the forefront of the campaign to further criminalise squatting. For every otherwise-empty building that they take on, they generate a steady flow of income for themselves, at the direct expense of the guardians and the indirect expense of the rest of us. Guardian companies have taken properties from short-life housing co-ops, which, while they might have had their own problems, have successfully housed many people over the decades, and often led to more secure housing.
A spokesperson from SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) said:
“Property Guardian companies are exploitative enterprises, opportunists preying on the scandal of thousands of empty buildings, fear of squatters, and housing desperation.
Their business model relies on stripping their residents/“workers” of their tenancy rights, getting taxpayer subsidy through government contracts and lack of regulation, and using any means to make a quick buck.
The Camesquat occupation is highlighting the issue by squatting Camelot’s old headquarters. Licencees are unfairly treated, and we encourage people to take up squatting instead of property guardianship. We also demand a repeal of section 144 LASPOA (2012), which is currently unjustly criminalising and imprisoning the vulnerably housed.”
The occupation has done a lot of what it set out to achieve, to raise concerns and generate public discussion about the role of property guardian companies, and the housing crisis. There are seven key points:
- Londoners being priced out of London – the need for rent controls and truly affordable rent levels
- The housing crisis and solutions to it
- The way property guardians are treated and their legal rights denied
- The criminalisation of residential squatting, and the impacts this had had (a near-doubling of street homelessness) NB non residential squatting is not illegal
- The ongoing loss of community/ arts/ culture space in London
- Making good use of the 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK
- The loss of council housing – which includes 79 different estate demolition schemes in London alone – and its replacement by luxury and privately-owned flats.
Press Release From Camesquat Occupation of Camelot HQ
20 Westland Place N1 7JR
tel. Frank Freeman 07784 702843 or
07704 912041 NB reception in building bad so txt as well, or visit.
Streets Kitchen works in partnership with many grass-root groups across the UK and beyond..
We receive no funding and rely on your support to continue to develop Street Kitchens across the UK and provide vital information for our streets.