Written: March 08
THE MODERN SQUATTER
As the price of rent continues to increase by the annual 5% reporter Rosalind Brabner speaks to ex-‘professional’ squatter Andy Macdonald on how to cheat the rent.
It doesn’t have to be all crack dens and 70’s punk music. I mean it can be if you’re going for the authentic look but now for the 21st century squatter sky television is in and heroin needles are out. What you might not know about squatting is that it is still legal. By law squatters have the same rights as anyone else and you can’t even be evicted until the owner carries out the correct legal proceedings.
EX- squatter and writer Andy Macdonald* cheated rent payments for over 2 years, now a fully fledged rent paying citizen, (well a student) he recalls how he managed the scam the system for so long.
“I started squatting in the port city of Liverpool after a spell working for the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Collections Centre based in my home town of Birmingham. This experience, which coincided with the slow meltdown of a long term relationship, had nothing short of a devastating impact on my state of mind. I was left with a personality fragmented- I could not tell what was wrong or right, what was Stravinsky, Igor or Spears, Britney.”
Like most modern squatters Andy wasn’t breaking into an abandoned house, instead he found out about a vacated room and catered it. “The room proved comfortable for a number of months, if a tad perilous- it was dominated by an inconvenient fitted wardrobe. Thankfully this fitted wardrobe was chocca with an array of porn past on to me from the previous incumbent”.
Having moved back to the midlands and feeling dissatisfied with his parents new home in the suburbs of Birmingham, Andy’s second squatting experience was a room with a view. “I found myself a city centre pad located opposite the Birmingham City Council building I had recently gained employment within- as a data entry maestro for the ideologically sound Decent Homes team- dedicated to improving the living conditions of the City’s socially housed folk. So, essentially, it was all just a case of wonderful convenience.”
But after saving “shit loads” of money Andy marks being found out as his low point in his squatting career, “One morning I was lying in bed in my first Birmingham squatting residence, wondering what time I should crawl into the office I could probably spit at, when a knock went at the door. I ignored it but soon became worried and frantically began packing the little amount of belongings I had. Soon after a meat headed meat head opened the door with his skeleton key and I was rumbled”.
The advisory service for squatters suggests that to increase longevity of your stay send a letter addressed to yourself in your new home. The police will accept this as sufficient proof that you live there. The advisory service also recommend leaving a radio on and to keep a copy of the squatter’s legal warning by the door, because the owners may come round and try to repossess the place by pretending that they thought there was no-one living there.
Currently sporting a disheveled Bob Geldolf do’ I ask Andy whether the beard is his last link to his squatting days? “I was actually planning on crafting it into a George Michael tribute but as it happens I am a strong believer in beards, traditional squatters grow them to keep the remainders of their breakfast safe for afternoon tea”. Any other traditional squatter habits? “Squatting gave me ample time to consider the history of pop music and, indeed, the point of sound. After much brain wrestling, one thing remained true- the mercurial magic of May and Mercury, RIP Freddie.”
After saving himself an estimated £6000 worth of rent Andy now lives in rented accommodation in Mosely without a crack habit. “Do I miss squatting? Not really, do I miss the porn wardrobe? Absolutely!”