Three men connected with the running of an illegal residence inside an office block in High Town were each fined at Luton Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Businessman Mohammed Nadeem, 42, and brothers Qamar Nazir, 36, and Naveed Nazir, 34, appeared to answer charges of running a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) without a licence, and with fire safety hazards.
Housing officers from Luton Borough Council inspected the building at 10 Midland Road with a Beds Fire and Rescue officer on June 2 2015 after receiving a tip-off.
Prosecutor Samantha McKeeman said: “Following an inspection, the fire officer was very concerned in relation to the way the building had been converted.”
Two office floors had been altered to include 20 bedrooms in total, with communal kitchens and bathrooms on each. In some cases, rooms were not properly compartmentalised, potentially allowing smoke and fire to pass through with ease.
One fire alarm was inoperable and a fire escape blocked by four televisions. Fire escapes on the top and ground floor were both via open plan kitchens. There was also an air suspension system in the basement bedroom which could have been fatal if activated.
In addition, the fire escape door in the basement was defective and windows in the basement room were barred.
Miss McKeeman said: “The fire officer was so concerned about risks from fire, he made a prohibition order on the premises.
“This was not done lightly, as the reality of doing this was that 45 people were made homeless.”
Three families with children were given emergency council accommodation while the rest were left homeless.
Miss McKeeman explained that the Nazir brothers owned the freehold to the building but it was leased out to DPG Business Solutions, a Stourbridge-based company run by its director David Peter Gaye.
DPG in turn employed Nadeem to manage the property on a day-to-day basis. The prosecution said it was Nadeem who collected the £450 monthly rents from tenants.
DPG Business Solutions was not present in court but had pleaded guilty by post of a number of offences, including being in management or control of an unlicenced HMO, breaching HMO regulations and trading standards offences in relation to the way the premises was advertised and tenanted.
David Peter Gaye, director of DPG Business Solutions, also pleaded guilty to the offences outlined, which were attributed to neglect on his part as director of the company. The sentencing for these matters will take place on March 22.
Cash Property Management based on Oak Road, Luton, was also charged with offences of misrepresentations made in how the property was advertised. The hearing for these cases was adjourned until March 22.
Mohammed Nadeem, of Birdsfoot Lane, Luton, pleaded guilty to one count of managing an HMO without a licence and was fined £2,000, with extra costs of £735.
Qamar and Naveed Nazir, also of Birdsfoot Lane, pleaded guilty to five counts of failing to comply with regulations in respect of the HMO and were fined £2,500 each with additional costs of £665 each.
The court was told the site at Midland Road has since been reconverted back to business use.