The housing firm which is evicting tenants from 74 properties in Peterborough to allow homeless people to move in has denied that its motives are solely based on profit.
Stef & Philips has broken its long silence to say it regretted any distress caused by the evictions at St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell which has caused huge controversy.
In a statement, the firm said: “The suggestion that ‘this is all about money’ could not be further from the truth.”
It added: “If our business was simply ‘all about money’, we would merely pick the most lucrative contracts. Instead, we also work with local authorities away from London in widespread geographic locations.
“Although local authorities have very pressing needs, S&P’s established ethos is to never work in an opportunistic manner.”
Peterborough City Council signed a three year deal worth nearly £3 million to move homeless people into St Michael’s Gate, with the number of properties renovated to increase to 98.
The council, which has a shortage of temporary accommodation, said if it did not take up the properties, a London borough would move its homeless people in instead.
Stef & Philips wrote: “We can confirm that long before our first contact with Peterborough City Council, we had already committed to the acquisition of St Michael’s Gate. Hence, the opinion of a ‘pre-purchase relationship with Peterborough City Council’ has no basis.
2. St Michael’s Gate was purchased by Paul Simon Magic Homes Investments Limited (PSMHIL). A director of Stef & Philips Limited has a minority interest in PSMHIL.
3. It was purchased at a time when the existing tenancy agreements were either drawing to a close or had already expired.
4. It was purchased with the knowledge that the majority of these properties will require extensive refurbishments.
5. Because of Health & Safety stipulations the properties cannot be occupied whilst the refurbishments are carried out.
6. Almost all of the tenants currently on site occupy their respective premises under a 6-month or 12-month Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement.
7. Each tenant is fully aware of their rights and obligations under the agreement and in particular their obligation to give up possession of the property on the correct amount of notice.
8. Key facts about this development;
a. A total of 74 properties with;
68 AST agreements
2 Assured tenancies
4 vacant properties
b. 50+ properties need complete refurbishment and upgrade to make them fully compliant.
c. We see no evidence of significant repair and maintenance in the past
d. Deposits paid by the tenants to the previous managing agents were placed in a Deposit Protection Scheme, and will be refunded.
1. No deductions will be made from the deposits unless we have evidence of malicious and wilful damage.
2. We are lawfully seeking possession, strictly in accordance with the terms of each agreement.
3. Each case is considered personally by a company director on its own merits.
4. 10+ tenants have already been allowed time beyond the end of their notice period.
5. S&P is funding all the refurbishment, repair and compliance related work.
6. All work will be completed at no additional expense to Peterborough City Council or the public purse.
“We are working closely with Peterborough City Council to ensure the properties become a valued part of the council’s temporary accommodation portfolio, providing an excellent opportunity for them to reduce the use of unsuitable accommodation elsewhere and to provide cost-effective temporary accommodation of a good standard from a specialist provider.”
Stef & Philips described itself as specialising in “providing accommodation for social housing to local authorities.”
Tenants at St Michael’s Gate have previously said Stef & Philips issued them a notice of possession for their property before their tenancies were up.
The tenants say after challenging the notice, they were then told they could stay at their homes until their tenancies actually expired.
The first homeless families moved into St Michael’s Gate two weeks ago, with at least 11 famileis said to be there now.
The Peterborough Telegraph, which broke the original story, has repeatedly asked for an interview with Stef & Philips but not heard back.
Paul Simon Magic Homes has refused requests for an interview.