Guardianship premises in Brighton closed without restraining order after fire safety breaches

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Residential housing

Ron Alalouff

A row erupted over a former care home under a temporary guardianship scheme, whose occupants were evicted without action from the fire services after the premises were found to pose a threat important for life. Reports by Ron Alalouff.

Brighton & Hove City Council terminated the guardianship agreement with Oaksure Property Protection at Knoll House in Hove last month, with 21 resident guardians due to leave their homes. Both parties dispute the facts and legal issues surrounding the eviction.

The council – in conjunction with the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service – said there were numerous fire safety flaws on the property which, in the event of a fire, would pose a significant risk to the community. life. Alleged failings included poor management of fire safety, insufficient information and training of watch (they were unaware of evacuation procedures and could not identify the assembly point), insufficient information and training of chief wardens fire safety officers, information on room occupancy, which could delay firefighters in an emergency, and expired fire extinguishers.

A potential closure of the premises had already been averted in July after discussions of fire safety breaches with Oaksure. But, following a subsequent inspection by the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service on August 19, the council terminated the contract with immediate effect and evicted the resident guardians.

“Given the significant risk to life caused by fire safety issues, we make no apologies for insisting the occupants move out and they understood why it was necessary,” a council spokesperson said.

“We had given Oaksure repeated opportunities to resolve the fire risk so that their resident caretakers were safe. But the situation had become so serious that we had no choice but to prioritize security over income.

“We very much regret that Oaksure’s failure to resolve these issues has led to this situation.”

Opposite view

But Oaksure has a very different account of what happened. The company said it had previously received a termination notice to leave within 20 working days, which was later rescinded by the council’s acting chief executive, who granted Oaksure a contract extension.

Daniel Hudson, Chairman of Oaksure, told IFSEC Global: “We have made all the changes requested by Brighton & Hove City Council and the fire department, with the exception of new warden fire training and fire drills. evacuation, which were in progress. [progress]. The property had been deemed safe by the fire risk assessor hired to draft the FRA and that there were no outstanding urgent notices. This was confirmed by the risk assessor who was on site with the board.

“We have never received a prohibition notice from the fire department, which would be the only legal grounds for deporting national residents with less than 28 days notice. A restraining order may be issued if it is considered that continued occupation would pose a serious threat to life. Our risk assessor would never have signed the FRA if there had been a serious threat to life, and we are confident that the firefighters would have issued a restraining order if they deemed there was a threat. severe.

“[The council] have no contractual relationship with our tutors – their contracts are signed with us. So if [they] wanted to remove our guardians without our consent, they had to get a court order to establish possession. They would then have had to use licensed bailiffs to enforce the court’s possession order, who are the only people who can legally do so. They never had a court order and they used security guards to forcefully evict our guardians. »

The East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service confirmed it had not issued a banning notice and said the council had pursued the matter.

Not council tenants

The council says the occupants were custodians under contract with Oaksure, not council tenants, and did not pay rent to the council. “The company was given sufficient time and multiple warnings to ensure the accommodation was safe and did not present a fire hazard. When Oaksure failed to take appropriate action, we had to take action decisive knowing that a fire could present a real threat to life.The risk of fire that could result in loss of life or serious injury is something that the council cannot tolerate.

Oaksure has offered all guardians free hotel accommodation for 28 days while they find alternative permanent accommodation, while council staff provide advice and assistance on new accommodations.

The council said it would reconsider its use of guardianship schemes in the future.

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