Council in talks with Luton authority in bid to minimise Bedford evictions

Luton Borough Council has agreement to take over 138 homes in Bedford borough
Bedford Borough Hall and Luton Town HallBedford Borough Hall and Luton Town Hall
Bedford Borough Hall and Luton Town Hall

Bedford Borough Council has been working with another council to try to minimise the risk of people being forcibly evicted from properties across the borough, a meeting heard.

During Wednesday’s Housing Committee (June 14), councillor Zara Layne (Labour, Harpur) asked about the implications for Bedford residents following the “acquisition of properties by Luton Council [sic]”.

Lee Phanco, chief officer for assessment, application and business support, replied: “Luton Borough Council hasn’t directly acquired the properties in question, as we understand it at the moment.

“They have an arrangement with a company that is a private registered provider of social housing to provide them with 138 units of accommodation in the borough.

“That housing provider is leasing properties that have been acquired by a third party which has brought up several blocks of accommodation in the borough.

“The previous owners of the properties which were rented out to private tenants had served section 21 notices, we believe, on all the existing residents giving them notice to quit the properties,” he said.

A Section 21 notice enables private landlords to repossess their properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant.

“Officers have been working with their counterparts at Luton to try and minimise the risk of people being forcibly evicted,” Mr Phanco said.

“So as it stands at the moment, a number of people have left of their own accord so there are some units that have become vacant.

“We understand that Luton borough residents that were homeless and in need of housing have started to move into those vacant units.

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“We have had an assurance from Luton that evictions would only be used as a last resort.

“Their officers are contacting the affected residents to try and offer them what help and support they can.

“We have seen a number of affected residents approach us for homelessness assistance.

“We will assist them in the same way that we would do anybody else that approaches us because they have been made homeless.

“But ideally, we would hope that that support in the first instance is provided by Luton so it doesn’t create an additional burden on our housing team,” he said.

Councillor Layne asked when the Section 21 notices were served.

Mr Phanco replied: “I don’t have the date, it was before the properties were bought so it was the previous owner that served them.

“I presume that the intention was that whoever was to acquire them would be acquiring them with vacant possession at some point,” he said.

“There are ongoing discussions with Luton Borough Council, they have offered Bedford Borough Council the opportunity to through them to nominate prospective tenants for one of the properties.

“There hasn’t been a final agreement on that, we have been in discussion and negotiation around that, it does offer an opportunity for forty units.

“One of the few positives out of this is that it may present an opportunity for us to be able to offer settled accommodations to people that are currently homeless,” he said.