The secret tenant finds another London Zone 2 rental for less than £500 a month: a horsebox drawn by a Transit van

In the last of his series seeking out Zone 2 rental options for young Londoners at less than £500 a month all in, graduate surveyor Tim Lowe, 26, gets desperate and hires a gipsy caravan-style horsebox drawn by a Transit van.
Lying awake, shivering in my sleeping bag, I find myself wondering how on earth I managed to end up calling a horsebox my home. This is the last stop in my odyssey searching for a home to rent in Zone 2 for less than £500 a month.
I met someone selling breakfast out of the back of the horsebox at a music festival. He had welded the box on to his Transit van. We jokingly discussed my cheap rents project at the time and I said that if I got really desperate for somewhere to stay I might give him a call.
Well, now I’m desperate — fortunately he remembers me and thinks it is a great idea for me to rent his van. So here is my diary of calling a horsebox home...
There is one major hitch when it comes to renting this van — it doesn’t meet the Low Emission Zone standards for London and so is subject to a £100-a-day charge every time it is driven within the M25.
Though the owner agrees to let me have the van at a nominal rent, I know it is going to be tough to keep the cost under £500. Even if I rarely move the van, there are parking fees, fuel and insurance to consider.
My next challenge is working out where I’m going to park it. Paying for parking is out of the question, while parking for free in the street has security issues.

With time ticking away, a friend kindly agrees to allow me to use his development site near Stoke Newington. In return for providing some security, he says I can park up for free.
All set, I start out on the trip over to Kensal Rise to pick up the van. I am delighted at first. Calling it a horsebox doesn’t really do it justice — think more along the lines of a gipsy wagon. With its wooden shutters and drop-down patio, it’s really quite cool.
Inside, the wagon is spacious, with chairs, a table and a double bed which extends over the top of the van section. In terms of power, there is a mains socket and two lights which, though dim, are perfectly functional. I get a heater and a selection of blankets thrown in, along with what seems like a lifetime’s supply of muesli.
With the van fully loaded up, I make the journey across London to my parking spot. Twenty minutes into the drive and seemingly at ease with my new motor home, the side hatch flies open and to my horror the spare wheel comes crashing out, careering across a busy junction and halting all traffic in its way.




My natural reaction is to swerve into the layby — unaware of a cyclist coming up the inside, who is forced to make an emergency exit off his bike and on to the pavement. Chasing after a rolling tyre while having abuse (quite rightly) hurled at me, is not quite how I envisaged the start of my journey.
The development site in Hackney is outside some soon-to be-demolished homes. Although secure, my main problem is its proximity to one of the busiest A-roads in London. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but when you are sleeping in a van with paper-thin walls the noise becomes intolerable and after my third consecutive sleepless night I know I need to move.
After making a few enquiries, Derwent, the developer, very kindly gives me permission to use a space on one of its car park sites in Marylebone, which happens to be a five-minute walk from work. Not a bad commute.
Horsebox home: Tim Lowe found it somewhat noisy and chilly, but also surprisingly roomy. Image: Will Bremridge
It does mean though that on numerous occasions I am spotted by work colleagues as I attempt to exit from the van’s side hatch. Then, fairly awkward conversations ensue about why I am living in a horsebox. Not ideal when you have just woken up.
But the truth is, I am really enjoying my wagon and finding it very easy to live in, now I have managed to get rid of the noise issues. Of course, this is not a permanent solution for me, nor one that can be recommended for the thousands of working Londoners who are desperate for affordable rental property.
It does, however, highlight the fact that if you are prepared to rough it and think outside — or in my case inside — the box, there are always options. Probably more outside London than in, if you are thinking of a mobile home.
My gipsy wagon sojourn marks the end of my four months testing affordable London rental options, from living on a houseboat to acting as building security in return for accommodation. Some have been more workable than others, but none was a long-term solution.
For more from Tim and to watch videos of his assignment, visit
Follow Tim on Twitter @lowecostliving, including updates in the new year, or see @knightfrank.
The original version of this feature appeared in Estates Gazette.

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