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Council delays closure of illegal boarding house to rehome tenants

Campbelltown Council: delayed closure of unauthorised boarding house until it helped tenants find new homes.

What started out as a complaint to Campbelltown Council has ended with the closure of an illegal boarding house in Dumaresq Street where 11 people were living.

An alert council officer sought a review of council records when the complaint came in about poor living conditions – and unauthorised building works at the boarding house which could have compromised the safety of the residents.

The review of council’s records revealed that a development application to operate a boarding house at the premises was refused in June 2013 and that the last known authorised use of the premises was for an educational establishment. 

An inspection of the premises was carried out on January 7 and it revealed that 11 people were living in the two storey building, with an additional person housed in one of two caravans located in the backyard.

There were minimal kitchen facilities but inspectors found portable gas cookers in some of the rooms.

Extensive modifications to the building were in progress.

A week later a joint inspection by compliance and fire safety and environmental health officers was undertaken.

It was considered that the premises did not have adequate living amenities and that the building lacked adequate provision for fire safety.

Following that inspection, an emergency order was served on the owner on January 18 to cease the unauthorised use of the premises as a boarding house and to vacate the premises on or before February, 3.

However, there was a flaw in the strategy: the emergency order had the potential to make the residents of the boarding house homeless.

The solution was a three week extension of time to February 25 – and a concerted joint effort to rehome the tenants.

Council’s social planning and partnerships team and a collaborative working group that included NSW Housing, Centrelink, Neami National and Uniting and Macarthur Disability Services rolled up their sleeves and all tenants were found new homes by the February 25 deadline.

 A report to council says access to the premises has also been secured by the owner, a “significant achievement, given the safety threats and the difficulty in rehousing the 11 tenants within such a short time frame’’.

Compliance action will now continue to address the unauthorised alterations and additions to the premises, and to consider legal action.

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