Lyn Pearman hit the road after her landlord evicted her following a rent increase from £433 to £700 per month. Image: Supplied
A great-grandmother who was evicted from her home and made homeless after her landlord put up her rent by almost £300 a month has become a TikTok star after she started living in a van.
Pensioner Lyn Pearman, 66, received a Section 21 eviction notice at the end of 2022 after her landlord told her the rent she paid on her flat in Ramsgate, Kent, would rise from £433 to £700 per month.
The retired personal trainer was given two months’ notice to leave the property and decided to press on with “plan B”: swapping her flat for life in a converted van. Pearman, a mother of two with six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, has now spent the last month living in the van and has been telling her story to 38,000 followers on TikTok where she has racked up more than a million views.
“I’ve become homeless, I live in a van then suddenly I’ve got 38,000 people that want to interact with me. My grandchildren are asking me for tips on TikTok now,” Pearman told The Big Issue.
“At the moment I’m trying to adapt to living in a small space. As someone said on my TikTok: I actually live in luxury. That’s weird, I suppose I could live in a shop doorway. But it’s far from luxury. It’s certainly been a journey but I’m better off really.”
Pearman started renting the flat in April 2021 and feared being evicted last February when the owners sold the property. But the new landlords gave her and her neighbour six-month contracts to remain in the property paying the same rent of £433 per month.
When it came to the end of the contract, Pearman was told her rent would be increased by 60 per cent to £700 a month and she had a month to decide whether she wanted to stay. She told The Big Issue she would only be able to get housing benefit to contribute £473 per month and would have to get discretionary housing payments to cover the rest.
“The windows rattled and were falling out, there was damp and mould, it needed double glazing. The landlord told me: ‘If you pay £700 a month we’ll get all that done’,” said Pearman. “I had a few words with them because I said it wasn’t fair they were putting it up and two days later me and my neighbour received a Section 21.
“I asked why we had suddenly got this and was told: ‘We gave you a chance and you refused it’. I said I’d pay £700 and asked if I could stay. They said no and told me they didn’t have to give me a reason but circumstances had changed.
“I left and they had about 30 people go for the flat. They rented it straight away and they’re getting about £750 a month for it.”
In the meantime, Pearman, who retired last year after completing a photography degree at Canterbury Christ Church University, was working on an alternative.
In the knowledge she would struggle to find another place to live for the same price, she sold almost all of her possessions and borrowed money from friends to pay for a converted campervan for £6,000.
Pearman has now been living in the van for a month and she told The Big Issue it’s been a tough adaptation.
She’s joined a gym for £15.99 a month to use the shower facilities and while the van does have a microwave and a two-ring hob she “can’t cook a proper dinner”. Pearman is also relying on friends for laundry.
Both the microwave and the fridge can only be used while connected to an electricity supply but Pearman’s son has started a fundraiser to help her get solar panels for the roof and a heater. So far, the GoFundMe campaign has raised more than £3,000.
Finding spaces to park up to sleep is also an issue and Pearman said she tries to stick to residential areas where she feels safer than more remote areas.
Despite the challenges, her optimism has not dimmed.
“The winter is a very different story but at the moment with the summer coming, I can see it as quite an adventure,” said Pearman. “I’ve always fancied doing it. And now I’ve sort of been thrown into it.
“I suppose the fact I can pull up in the van and have a sea view that someone will pay a million pounds for a house to see is a positive. You can travel to a different place every day and have a different view.”
When she started her van life journey, Pearman decided to post her story on TikTok as a personal record of what she was going through.
It has struck a chord with her ever-growing collection of followers and now she is posting videos up to six times a day to tell them more about her life.
“Overnight I had thousands of views on that, it’s just going mad. The people on TikTok have been amazing, they’ve offered me food, everything.
“I know it helps other people, I put the downside on there and the upside. They seem to like that I tune in in the morning to let them know I’m still alive. I have to say I’m parked up at night and let them know. If I don’t put at least six videos on a day they’re going: ‘What are you doing?’”
As the cost of living crisis pushes more people into poverty, the number of households facing eviction has soared. Ministry of Justice statistics show repossessions more than doubled in the last three months of 2022, rising to 5,409 from 2,729 in the same period in 2021.
Pearman believes her story is relatable and has led to her social media fame and hopes she can showcase how to make the most of a desperate situation.
“It’s a hot topic at this time, isn’t it? Now people are following me from all over the world and they say they’re a couple of pay cheques away from being in the same situation as me and that I’m an inspiration,” she added.
“I’d say always have a plan B because if I didn’t have a plan B I could be in a room or a shop doorway.
“I’ve got good health and I think if you’re able to do it then life’s too short not to do it.
Be brave. Take the bull by the horns.
“Not many people are put in this position so if I can make something of it and also draw attention to the fact other people are in my situation, I can be sort of a spokesperson.”
Follow Pearman’s story on TikTok @offtotravel and donations can be made to help Pearman with repairs and maintenance of the van on GoFundMe.
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