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4 June 2015, 15:09
Bedfordshire fire and rescue and Luton Council have used new "rogue landlord laws" to force the closure of converted flats in the town.
On the evening of 2 June, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, working with Luton Borough Council, served a "Prohibition Order for violations of Fire Safety Codes" on converted flats at 10 Midland Road, Luton.
The Prohibition Order was served on the landlord following an inspection of the flats, which are within parts of a commercial building, but, were not suitably protected from fire or the spread of fire.
Essentially, despite the rest of the building being converted into homes as flats, the Fire Prohibition Order prevents any persons from resting or sleeping in the premises.
A joint statement from the council and the fire service say the day nursery and other businesses at the address can continue to function as normal as they are not affected by these issues.
The closure was the one of the first acts of a new Rogue Landlord Team comprising fire safety, planning enforcement and housing officers from the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Luton Borough Council, and which came into force just the day before (Monday 1 June).
The authorities were alerted to the address after receiving a referral from Luton's Citizen's Advice Bureau.
Luton Borough Council was immediately helping people find alternative accommodation. Three households have been assessed as having priority needs and placed in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation. Thirteen other households have been offered advice.
In total it is thought some 46 people are affected.
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service Operational Commander Simon Barker, Head of Community Safety, said:
"The Fire and Rescue Service’s job is not only to put fires out but to prevent them and their tragic consequences. Working with Luton Borough Council in the Rogue Landlord Scheme will ensure people who rent a property in Luton are properly protected.
We served our Prohibition Order to protect the occupants and it will not be lifted until the owner carries out suitable restoration work to make the building fire-safe subject to appropriate Planning and Building Regulation approval.
It is unfortunate these people have had to leave what was their home but we could not allow them to stay there without proper fire safety, their lives were at risk and we could not let this situation continue as it is our duty to protect the public."
Cllr Tom Shaw, Portfolio Holder for housing at Luton Borough Council, confirmed the authority is investigating alleged breaches at the address of planning contraventions and regulations relating to Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
He said: “The Council is committed to actively working to ensure tenant safety in both social and private sector housing.
“Clearly our first priority was to work with the fire and rescue service to protect people’s safety, and then to assess the households affected and either identify temporary accommodation or help them find somewhere else to stay in the private sector. If there is anybody still in need of our assistance we would urge them to come to the Town Hall or telephone us.
“Industrial units cannot be divided into flats without appropriate planning permission and building regulation from the planning authority, and all landlords of addresses with two or more households are required to apply for an HMO licence.
“Any landlord or owner of properties we suspect are acting in an illegal way we will use all the powers at our disposal to pursue them.
“While our investigations are continuing it is not possible to comment further at this stage.”