Woman convicted over overcrowded Camborne homeless hostel
6:04pm Monday 4th February 2013 in News
A woman who won an award for parenting and guardian skills will have to pay £200 a month to a court for the next two years after failing to license her home and for overcrowding.
Cornwall Council said there were between 15 and 18 people receiving housing benefit relating to the property.
Julie Stoddern, aged 44, of North Roskear Village, broke Housing Act regulations at the home she made for the homeless in Camborne and pleaded guilty at Truro Magistrates' Court to breaching a suspended prohibition order and to managing an unlicensed property.
Kevin Hill for Cornwall Council said the property known as Elunda provided accommodation for a number of people either homeless or recently released from prison. Following a query from the police regarding concern for overcrowding at the property, an assessment was made by his officers that identified a number of serious hazards related to the high level of occupancy.
Mr Hill said his information was that there were between 15 and 18 people receiving housing benefit relating to the property.
A prohibition order was issued requiring Stoddern to discontinue the use of a bedroom in the loft and to complete remedial works or remove access to a staircase and provide guarding to prevent falls. A further notice was served to reduce occupation of the dwelling to five people, taking into account the structure of the building and the size of its rooms.
After this, on July 11, a further visit was made and the loft conversion was still in use and no remedial work had been done.
Elliott Moore, for Stoddern, said she was not aware of her obligations about the need for a licence. The council had been paying housing benefit to people living at the address and there would be other organisations placing residents in her care.
He said the loft did not have any beds in it but there was a computer there which people were using. When the council officers visited the property on July 11 there were seven people living there.
Stoddern ran a company called Cornish Families providing accommodation in 60 properties for people travelling here from overseas and people on work experience. Her work stemmed from a previous job as a foster worker and she wanted to provide support for people in vulnerable positions, receiving referrals from the drop-in centre in Camborne and New Connections.
In 2011 she had won an award from a local radio station for parenting and guardian work. But things had got out of hand, there were complaints about noise and nuisance and she was herself a victim of crime.
The attic had now been blocked off and she planned to keep the numbers down.
Stoddern sobbed as she told the magistrates she felt the authorities had been using her for six years after licensing was introduced before they investigated her, relying on her to deal with everybody else's problems in the meantime.
Chairman Karen Tudor told her: “We understand your motives and admire them, and there can be no doubt that your intentions in this case were quite honourable. But the safety regulations are there for a very good reason.”
Stoddern was fined £500 and £15 victim surcharge and told to pay £4045.77 costs.
Her offer to pay at £200 a month was accepted.
Hope Bradbury, senior environmental health officer, said after the hearing: “Cornwall Council values the contribution made by well-managed houses in multiple occupation within the local housing market but will continue to intervene in these types of property to ensure minimum standards are maintained. The council strives to work informally with landlords but when informal requests fail, the council will use enforcement action and prosecute for non-compliance”.