News Articles

Concept spreads beyond Dutch borders

Firm’s anti-squatters stem the tide of squatters’ movement

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

DEN BOSCH, the Netherlands - The phenomenon of Dutch riot police using water cannons to disperse crowds of violent protesters in rundown districts has pretty much disappeared from the news. In the past decades, unoccupied buildings in Dutch cities often attracted illegal occupants by the dozens, creating headlines throughout the western world when at last police emergency units tried to evict the krakers (squatters), from behind barricaded and bolted down entrances. Thanks to firms such as Camelot Beheer, the housing protest movement has sharply diminished in size and rarely takes on the police anymore.

Camelot's concept employs anti-krakers, anti-squatters and house sitters, who for low rent on short notice take up temporary residency in an otherwise vacant building that for a number of reasons needs legal occupants. The idea of such a semi-nomadic life has been found to appeal to adventurous people.

Real estate property managers and developers for years were at the mercy of squatters who deemed it their right to invade any vacant building awaiting new lessees or redevelopment. In response to such problems, a number of small firms in the 1980s offered to arrange mature and legal anti-squatter residency for the owners.

Camelot took a structural approach to the matter by creating an all-round package that offered property managers and owners far more: one that could withstand any challenge to property rights and that legally extended residency status also to those living in a building on a temporary basis. The package thereby greatly diminished the possibility that the courts would still give squatters the benefit of the doubt as often had happened before. Since then, squatting at Camelot’s locations is considered to be an unlawful intrusion.

Another Camelot service option concerns the safety of such ‘house sitters.’ Together with local fire departments, the company equips the buildings under its watch with smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other useful fire prevention tools. Additionally, the firm monitors its house sitters and the buildings, and furnishes owners a monthly report on their locations in the program, leaving them free to pursue their regular work.

Unoccupied buildings, and even those with house sitters, traditionally are hard to insure. The properties served by Camelot no longer are exposed that way, as the Brabant firm developed coverage with an insurer that takes into account Camelot’s package.

Cancer in cityscape

Vacant buildings tend to have a negative influence on their surrounding areas, Camelot calls them a cancer in the cityscape. To deal with those concerns, the firm has designed a program of limited occupancy. In larger buildings, including former care homes and even castles, Camelot looks for strategically located suites for occupancy, often just for two people. With residents in such suites, the building no longer is attractive to squatters.

Anti-squatter house sitting has evolved into other custom-made services as well. Camelot now also offers similar approaches to problems faced by contractors at building sites who must deal with vandalism and theft, something schools during the holidays also struggle with.

The firm, which has a market share of twenty percent in the Netherlands, has set up branches in Brussels, London, Manchester, Dublin, Birmingham and Paris in recent years. At ‘home’ it has offices in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, close to its customer base.