A number of very distressed tenants have been urgently moved out of two flats in Market Harborough because they pose an “imminent risk to life” amid fears they are a serious fire danger.
The distraught occupants are now living in new council accommodation after they made a “desperate last-minute plea” to their local councillor Phil Knowles to put a new roof over their heads.
They put in the SoS call to the council’s Liberal Democrat leader just 24 hours before the two “dangerous” flats on St Mary’s Road were shut down by Harborough council on Friday (July 2).
Council officers were backed up by police officers and fire service officers when they slapped the extremely rare Emergency Prohibition Order on the two bedsits in a converted townhouse.
The ageing building has now been sealed off – and the banning order has been pinned to the boarded-up entrance.
The council acted quickly after officers carried out an inspection of the flats – after the authority was alerted by an alarmed receivership company set to repossess them.
A Harborough council spokesman told the Harborough Mail: “On Friday, the council – working with a number of agencies, including police and fire service – served an Emergency Prohibition Order (EPO) on two flats on St Mary’s Road, Market Harborough, that pose an imminent risk to life due to fire safety.
“We have provided support to the occupants who have all vacated the property and found alternative accommodation (for them).”
He added: “An EPO can be used by a local authority if a property is deemed unsafe to protect the welfare of tenants.”
The Mail has been told that the flats are owned by a local development company.
But the latest Companies House records show that all five officers of the Kettering-based firm have resigned.
And the two seriously rundown properties are now set to be repossessed.
“The receivership company who had undertaken an inspection of the flats as part of their process to seek repossession contacted the council which undertook its own inspection,” added the Harborough council spokesman.
A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “Police did attend. However, this was only precautionary in case there was a breach of the peace and to assist with any welfare issues.”
Cllr Knowles, who represents St Mary’s Road as part of his Great Bowden and Arden ward, told the Mail: “It is very worrying that properties on the edge of Market Harborough town centre have become so dangerous to the poor people living there.
“But I want to pay immense credit to our council officers.
“They moved very swiftly after I was contacted last Thursday by a man who lived in one of these flats.
“He was ringing me from work to make a desperate plea for help,” said Cllr Knowles, who leads the council’s Liberal Democrat group.
“He was aware that the council was going to serve this prohibition order on these properties the next day.
“And he was obviously very concerned that he and the other people living there would end up out on the street with nowhere to go.
“He was very dignified about their traumatic plight but clearly very worried at the same time.
“This was a very distressing situation for all the people occupying these two flats.
“One minute they were living there – and the next they’d be being asked to leave for their own good and safety,” said Cllr Knowles.
“I contacted our council officers straight away.
“They reassured me that they would get on to this case immediately.
“And they were as good as their word, finding these people emergency accommodation the next day.
“I can only imagine what the living conditions were like in these two flats because I haven’t got any more detail.
“But the man I spoke to did call me back on Friday to thank me for the council’s prompt and brilliant response.
“And I want to salute our staff as well for coming to these tenants’ rescue at a terrible time for them.
“I can’t thank them enough,” said the veteran councillor.