These conditions are something I’ve become accustomed to in my year and a half of living on Fountayne Road, a street in Seven Sisters renowned historically for attracting artists, musicians and all other forms of creatives in its warehouse units across the street.
From a mice infestation to ceiling leaks, the quality of our home can sometimes feel subpar, especially due to how distant landlords can feel. In my unit’s case, a leaseholder who moved out years ago is the only person holding a direct dialogue with them. It’s an agreement that I never really questioned because of how peculiar our living conditions are and thankfully our leaseholder approached their responsibility ethically, without overcharging us and being readily available - something many other warehouse tenants can’t claim.
“You’ve got two landlords basically,” Mona, who has lived on Fountayne Road since 2006, tells The Lead. “You have some leaseholders who are taking over units, doing them up, and charging £900 a room, and then the landlord themselves.”
Mona has accumulated an ample amount of stories over her seventeen years residing on the road; from one of the squats having a skate park inside when she first moved in, to their biggest ever rave coincidentally being on the same night as the first day of the London riots. She tells me how relaxed treatment from landlords had been historically: “we could do whatever we wanted.”
Landlords catch on
Things changed when business-minded leaseholders started spiking up rent for other tenants. The landlords eventually caught on, started renovating the spaces and raising the price themselves. Mona's unit fell victim to this last year and they were handed an eviction notice for ‘health and safety reasons’, and saw the price of their home sky-rocket post renovation. Out of the 14 people who used to live there, only a couple are still on the road.
“Consistently,” My friend Namal tells me when I ask if they’re fearful of losing their home. “Seeing units constantly changing, you start to wonder: ‘when is it going to be me?’”For Namal, a creative director and stylist, the warehouse is not just a home, but also their workplace. “My entire life is here,” Namal tells The Lead, “I’m 39, I have a lot of possessions, it’s not as straightforward as ‘I’m just going to move.’”
The bureaucratic freedom that comes with living in these spaces (lack of contractual obligations, relaxed background checks, ease of subletting) is a double-edged sword when it comes to challenging these forms of injustice. This is not only when it comes to the lack of tenant rights, but also for the culture of inaction it can foster. With the popularisation of warehouse living, more and more people are moving on the road without the intention of building a home or a community, and with the rents spiking up, this is bound to become even more common. “There used to be a bigger fight back in the day.” says Namal, “there’s been so much change of mood and movement that people have become quite complacent. They’re not as invested in the space as they used to be.”