The secret tenant tests budget rental options for young Londoners

Our “secret tenant” Tim Lowe, 26, is moving home every three weeks testing budget rental options for young Londoners. After living as an “office guardian” above a Kwik-Fit garage in Gospel Oak, he has moved on to join a Camden house-sharing collective...
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Graduate property surveyor Tim, pictured, is carrying out his rental road test over four months. Every property must be in Zone 2 and he must spend — all in — less than £500 a month on rent.



Here, he is into his first days at The Camden Collective:

These three weeks in Camden are already the polar opposite of my previous stint as a live-in office guardian in Gospel Oak. Clean, quiet and comfortable, the days of sharing one shower between 16 people now feel like a lifetime ago.

Moving into the collective is like going from a run-down backpacker hostel to a hotel, and I’m only paying £100 a month more than before for the privilege. One of four shared-living buildings run by a company set up by 25-year-old Reza Merchant in 2012 to offer affordable living in central London, it’s near faultless.

Situated between Camden and Holloway, the imposing period building is bang on the bustling Camden Road. Fitted with electric gates and 24/7 security, it feels safe and secure.


Small but spotless: The Camden Collective is made up of one room apartments which share some communal facilities and access to a cleaner


By chance, on my arrival I was welcomed by the collective’s monthly BBQ for all residents and staff to get to know each other. This gave me an opportunity to suss out some of my new housemates. Unlike my previous disused office block where my fellow guardians were roughly all the same age and at similar points in their careers, the mix of tenants in the collective is far more diverse. From overseas students and young professionals to couples and those in the later stages of their careers, it is very difficult to pinpoint a set type of tenant or career path. 

Furthermore, with tenancy agreements flexible, ranging from a couple of weeks to a year, I am never quite sure who has been here for a while or who has just arrived. It is clearly an attractive option for those who are looking for a short-term let, without paying the expense of a serviced apartment or a hotel. 

Take Mel for example, based in Northampton but filming a four-month project in east London. The collective provided her with a bolt hole in a central location, at a fraction of the price of a hotel and with none of the hassle.

With 50 rooms in the building, there is a mix of en suite rooms with shared eating facilities, modestly priced between £115-£250 a week, and studios for those with deeper pockets, which range between £260-£350 a week.

My room is incredibly compact, just 140sq ft, including an en suite, wardrobe, desk, and a bed. Although miniature, it works perfectly for my needs  and is proof, as far as I am concerned, that if you are young renter working in London, your don’t really need a much bigger space. 

For just £115 a week, my rent includes all bills, a cleaner once a week, fresh sheets and a concierge service. I can’t stress what a pleasure it is to come back home late from work and find my room spotless. 

With seven other rooms on my corridor, I have use of a shared kitchen and a small communal area, which isn’t often used. I spoke with guys at the collective about this and it became clear this is an area they are keen to work on in their upcoming schemes.

As The Camden Collective was their first building, and with space at a minimum, their ethos was focused on creating a serviced rental model which could be replicated on a much larger scale. With this in mind, their latest scheme, purpose-built in Willesden Junction, will focus on larger communal spaces, with bars, lounges, chill-out rooms, a gym and spa, as well as a secret garden and a disco-style washing room.

So that’s the collective. Next on my list are three weeks on a houseboat in Hackney, where I will be saying goodbye to such luxuries as running water, electricity and a bedroom with doors. Wish me luck.

Emilly Wright’s original version of this feature appeared in Estates Gazette.  Follow Tim on Twitter @lowecostliving or Knight Frank @knightfrank. Check Tim’s video diaries and blogs at

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