Charlotte Fountaine, 27

I’m a master’s student trying to avoid London’s extortionate rents, so property guardianship – a scheme that means you occupy a home and keep it in good condition and free of squatters – is perfect. You trade the security of a tenancy for cheap rent, and must do 16 hours of volunteering a month. I enjoy mentoring at a nearby school; my flatmate Keri gardens at a local graveyard.

When we moved in 18 months ago, we didn’t know each other (an agency put us together) but we met over a cup of tea in the living room and got chatting about decor. The place was empty, a blank canvas, but I’m handy with a paintbrush and Keri is good with a drill. I sewed cushions, we found a free sofa on an app and our radio was discovered by a canal. We bought a cooker together and it felt special, as if we’re both equally invested now.

Keri Arrindell, 32

My friends’ experiences of property guardianship were positive, so I decided to give it a try.

Gigging with my band means I’m rarely around in the evenings, so sometimes I see Charlotte four days in a row and then not at all for the next three. I’ve learned to creep back in at 4am so I don’t wake her. Often, she gets in from work and we’re rehearsing in the living room, equipment everywhere. When I get in, she’ll be working on a zine with her friends. It’s a creative atmosphere.

The few times we catch each other in the kitchen for an hour or so, we’re back where we started, exchanging boyfriend dilemmas over a cup of tea. Our flat has been a good deal for me; it won’t last for ever, but I’m hoping to make it long term while I save for a deposit. In the meantime, it feels like home.

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