HOW is it possible to live in a luxury seven bedroom trophy home on Ailesbury Road – one of Ireland's two most expensive streets – for a grand sum of €250 per month or €62.50 per week?
This week 29-year-old art history graduate Leah Reynolds has achieved the seemingly impossible and is moving her possessions into 1 Ailesbury Road, a 19th century two-storey over-basement house and one of the largest properties on a street where the last two sales of houses clocked up in at €4.75m and €5.3m respectively at the end of last year.
On Ailesbury Road, it normally costs €2,400 to rent an apartment and around €4,000 per month to rent one of the plush D4 enclave's mid-sized houses.
Ailesbury is home to eight embassies and 11 ambassadors' residences and the owners have included a roll call of bankers and top lawyers as well as Leah's namesake former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, Dragon's Den media mogul Gavin Duffy and the McManus family.
Even though the crash shaved 70pc off values here, it hasn't dampened the appetite for trophy homes as proven by JP McManus when he paid €10m two years ago for an Ailesbury Road abode with a glass-floored ballroom which slides back to reveal a heated swimming pool. This is Dublin's Mayfair.
But while Leah Reynolds is paying a peppercorn fee to rub shoulders with Ireland's wealthiest, she's not paying rent.
Technically she's not a tenant. This is because Reynolds is one of seven "guardians" who have just moved in to protect the former EMI headquarters at 1 Ailesbury Road as part of a unique arrangement which allows footloose individuals to live in cheap occupation and property owners to rest assured that their empty buildings aren't exposed to vandalism or dereliction.
And of course, Camelot, the UK-based network, makes a profit.
"I recently came up to Dublin from Cork after completing my higher diploma in art history and I'm taking care of my dad who hasn't been well lately," says Reynolds, whose new housemates include boyfriend and girlfriend couple Alex McCutcheon and Jenny Sweeney.
"I was looking around for a place to live in Dublin when a friend steered me towards the Camelot website. She has been living as a guardian in an Abbey in Harold's Cross and her stay was organised by Camelot. So I registered with them and when I saw the house on Ailesbury Road, I put my name down for it straight away.
I'm told it's very much on a first-come first-served basis and recently they told me I had been successful. Through the last few weeks, I've been moving my stuff in. It's really interesting to be living near all these wealthy people."
Not surprisingly, 1 Ailesbury Road produced heated competition among Camelot's roll of vetted Irish guardians. The network's regional manager for Ireland Damien Wood says there were more than 200 applicants for the seven guardianship places.
Reynolds adds: "I'm sharing with six other guardians who I haven't met before. It's a good mix of people. It doesn't unnerve me sharing with people I've never met because I've done house shares like this before and I'm used to them.
"I get my own room and we share a kitchen and the reception rooms. The advantage is the location, it's obviously very upmarket and its very central for me. I can live there for way less than what I'd pay elsewhere. The downside is that the house was most recently used for offices so the kitchen is tiny and although there are three bathrooms there are no baths and only one shower.
Camelot was set up in the UK in 1993 and has since spread across Europe where the company finds guardians to live in temporarily empty properties which include factories, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, hotels, offices and of course, houses.
It's obviously a winning formula because today Camelot has 15,000 guardians living in buildings in six countries with 170 guardians currently placed in buildings around Ireland. Most usually the fee guardians pay for their stay is €150 per month.
"The most unusual properties to house our guardians have included an observatory complete with a huge telescope and a pink fantasy castle located in an amusement park in Holland," says Mr Wood.
"In Ireland, we recently had our guardians living for a year and a half in Abbeville, the Dublin mansion formerly owned by Charles Haughey and in the historic Loreto Convent in Rathfarnham.
"Other properties we have on our books included a well-known regional luxury hotel with balcony views over a golf course and some regional ghost estates. It's a win-win situation for all involved. Leaving a building empty – even with a security man on site – can still see it damaged or destroyed as we saw recently with Belcamp House near Abbeville.
"We recommended our guardians for the Belcamp property and also for the former Cancer Hospital at Hume Street which was severely damaged when thieves stripped the roof of lead and rainwater destroyed the interiors. Abbeville stayed safe; work it out."
Mr Wood makes the argument that buildings which have people living in them are far less likely to be vandalised or broken into. "It's a much cheaper option than employing on site security – we estimate 30pc of that cost. In the case of building complexes like empty hotels or nursing homes, it also cuts down drastically on the insurance costs for the owners. A 38-bedroom hotel we had on our books saw its insurance premium drop 60pc just because we had people living there.
"Our guardians are vetted and their contract is not a letting agreement – the contract which governs their stay is akin to that signed by hotel guests. All of them sign up to strict rules which include no parties, no overnight visitors and no pets.
"They also sign up to allow us to inspect the property without notice. There will always be empty buildings which are waiting for planning permission or renovation and which need protecting and there are always good people who want to avail of cut price accommodation who are willing to put up with mild inconveniences like living in a hospital, in order to avail of that."
Wood says that Camelot strives to place groups of six. We have found that six is the optimum number because the odds are that someone will always be on the premises when you have that number. For example, it's likely that at least one will work a night shift and therefore be home in the daytime."
The arrangement also suits Leah Reynolds. "It fits my needs right now really well at a time when I don't need to be tied into a binding lease and I'm hoping it can sort me out until the summer.