Londoners now spend a reported two-thirds of their income on rent,\u00a0but there are still some cheaper options available. \u00a0Becoming a property guardian\u00a0is one such option. In exchange for low rent, property guardians are offered to live in an otherwise vacant space\u2014with the objective\u00a0of discouraging\u00a0squatters and\/or damage to the property. It\u2019s not a new concept by any means (Camelot started in the Netherlands in the 90s), but it's one that is fast-growing in London, with around 28 companies operating. It\u2019s even the subject of the sitcom Crashing. Fees vary between companies and property types, but is possible to save as much as a third of the cost of the average market rent. Property types are a mix of commercial and residential. In theory, you can live like a pauper but reside in a castle! Of course, \u00a0most places won\u2019t be castles, but they might be schools, office buildings, cinemas, and unoccupied residential homes. So what makes someone choose to be a guardian in the first place? Well, saving cash, ultimately. Fees And Admin (Camelot Europe went into administration after being prosecuted for breaching HMO regulations and reformed as) Watchtower Property Management and now seems to be operating as Spots4you, DotDotDot, AdHoc, and Lowe's are some of the major property guardian companies. Most places will ask for references, and will not allow dependents or pets. As with private rental, you'll need a bit cash up front, on top of your weekly costs. Deposit: Around \u00a3300-\u00a3600 Admin Fees: \u00a360-\u00a3100 Fire Safety Pack: \u00a360-\u00a380 Weekly: \u00a0Around \u00a335-\u00a3150 pw depending on property type Bills: Variable, some properties are inclusive Guardian Life For some, like Lee Anderson and his wife, it\u2019s enabled savings to the tune of getting on the ever-elusive property ladder. The couple spent around five years, living in different residential and commercial properties. Their \u00a0stints ranged from a few months to a couple years through AdHoc. So where did they end up on their property-hopping? \u201c Mainly dilapidated council flats, but we once lived in an old school hall near the Thames \u2013 we probably had the biggest bedroom in London. The other highlight was architect Ern\u0151 Goldfinger\u2019s Carradale House in Poplar, a precursor to Kensington\u2019s infinitely more famous Trellick Tower.\u201d Guy Erskine is another long-term guardian, also through AdHoc. He became one four years ago, after his friends had tried it. \u201cA couple of good friends of mine had been in the system for a year or so, and were both having good experiences. \u00a0One in a town hall which sounded great and the other in a nursing home, which was not so great. \u00a0I was looking for ways of reducing my outgoings and with rent 25-50% lower than the market rate it was a no brainer\u201d It can help create a sense community, which is valuable in the city, as Guy notes of his current place, a former care home:\u00a0\u201cThankfully there are some great people in the building and we\u2019ve got our own whatsapp group, and have parties on a regular basis. Just what you need when living in a place like Kew\u201d. Even long-term guardians don't like to rose tint their experiences, but how does it compare with the alternative? \u201cOverall living in these places is really fun, and being able to afford to live so central to London is great. I have had a lot less to complain about than most people I know who rent in London! You can get screwed over by these guardianship contracts, but I think renting in London is often a similar circus, and it leaves you with a lot less left over from your salary at the end of the month\u201d \u2013 London guardian. Downsides The main motivator is cost, and saving rent money, but it has to be weighed up against other factors. It\u2019s not going to be for everyone, you may have to pack up and move on quickly. Most places are unfurnished too, so be prepared to source things. So, if you play the harp or have tonnes of gadgets in tow, you might need to get minimal first. Utilities and council tax payments also have to be set up each time you enter a new property, which is a perfect reason to befriend your fellow guardians, and share the load. There are also questions over rights. In fact, the term \u2018rent\u2019 isn\u2019t used by the companies, guardians are \u2018licencees\u2019. Property guardianship companies do not have to adhere to the same rules as private landlords, so there are no tenancy agreements. However, they should operate with licence agreement outlining the exact terms and conditions, including notice period. Most should endeavor to re-house their guardians when notice is given on their existing property. \u201cMy advice would be to think very carefully about it. Especially considering you will need to buy furniture and white goods. Being given a week\u2019s notice to move out isn\u2019t much fun, either.\u201d warns Lee Anderson. But even in the private rental sector, accommodation can be transient, and it\u2019s not at all unusual for people to move multiple times, in a reasonably short space of time. Many renters also club together in huge house shares, with limited communal space. So while guardianship is far from risk-free, neither is private rental. House-Sitting And if you\u2019re really broke or new in town, house-sitting is a option that will give you rent-free accommodation for a while, you will just need to pay for bills during your stay. Lauren O\u2019Connor returned to London in December from LA with very little cash, and new job starting in January. She found a place through\u00a0Trusted Housesitters\u00a0for three months, and her experience has been a positive one. \u201cFor me, it's enabled me to get back into work and start paying off some things while saving some for rent for when I move out in March. It also tests the area you're living in too. A trial run.\u201d Just be wary of housemates of a four-legged variety, she warns,\u00a0\u201c They had a dog, and on Christmas Day, it ran out of the house into a main road... so my sister and I had to chase after it. Thankfully the cars slowed down avoiding\u00a0any accidents. Then the dog got bored and ran home!\u201d Despite that hairy situation, not all house-sitting means you have to mind pets too, so fear not, allergy-suffering cheapos. Advice For Potential Guardians For anyone considering guardianship, be aware that conditions, costs and rules will differ between property companies. It\u2019s always useful to have someone \u2018in the know\u2019, so if you can, reach out to other guardians and find out what their experiences have been like. \u00a0If not, then do your research and read testimonials to make sure that the options on offer are right for you. \u201cYou need to be flexible, and happy with some shitty conditions, and often not knowing who you'll be living with. Check the properties carefully before you sign up and make sure you know which room you're getting.\u201d\u00a0\u2013\u00a0London guardian Before you get going, here are a few things to consider: Location: Where do you want to live? Are you flexible about areas? Communal Living: Are you alone and looking to share, or in a couple or existing group-share? Comfort: Most places will be unfurnished and facilities will vary from property to property, and conditions won\u2019t always be great. Security: Although you\u2019re occupying as guardian, and part of that is to protect the building, your property company should always have appropriate security measures and contacts in place. Eligibility: Some companies give priority to key workers. Moving at short notice: You may end up having to pack up and vacate at a week\u2019s notice. Shop around: Registering with multiple agencies will give you a larger selection to choose from, and allows you to find terms that best suit your needs. Responsibilities: Make sure you check the contract thoroughly, some schemes outline what kind of upkeep falls to the guardians. Guardianship through DotDotDot\u00a0includes 16 hrs per month of voluntary work. Experiences vary, and it\u2019s not necessarily going to solve your rental situation for years on end, but if you\u2019re prepared for some unusual living arrangements for a little while, you might just save enough for somewhere longer term.