NEWCASTLE City Council says its officers found a number of problems at Aaron Buman’s Adamstown boarding house during a tense 70-minute inspection on Wednesday morning.
With his Carrington and Mayfield boarding houses already closed down by council action, Mr Buman and his boarders had feared a similar fate with Christmas just days away.
But while further action looks likely, a council statement issued after the inspection indicates that 50 or more tenants will be able to stay where they are over Christmas and into the New Year.
“City investigations officers inspected a registered boarding house in Adamstown today as part of our boarding house inspection program,” the council said on Wednesday afternoon.
“The inspection focused on compliance with legislation and fire safety requirements for boarding houses.
“A number of issues relating to unauthorised works and fire safety were identified. These will be assessed in coming weeks to ascertain what regulatory action, if any, is required to ensure the premises complies with planning and fire safety laws to ensure the safety of residents.”
Wednesday’s inspection began when the council officer in charge of the operation told Mr Buman he had a search warrant to enter the premises, obtained on Tuesday at Newcastle Local Court.
With the Newcastle Herald and NBN television watching on, the five-person council team went on a room-by-room inspection of the complex, filming and photographing everything along the way.
Some of the things they seized on seemed minor to the untrained eye. A lone cockroach on the floor. A spot of mould on the ceiling of one room. A door handle that turned the wrong way.
But there was no escaping the seriousness of the situation as the number of apparent breaches – despite the noticeably clean, neat and well-maintained manner of the place – began to add up on the officers’ clipboards.
At various points, groups of boarders watched on with growing concern, united behind a landlord they all said was the best boarding house operator they had ever seen.
“Don’t they realise what they are doing?” one resident told the Newcastle Herald.
“This place is a wonderful home for people in difficult situations. People feel safe here. It’s clean, it has rules, it’s structured. The things that Aaron does here, there’s nothing like it anywhere else.”
The officers seemed particularly concerned with a group of caravan-park style cabins sitting behind the main building, which Mr Buman acknowledged were installed without council approval.
But he said the council had no problem with the cabins when it inspected Adamstown two years previously, and he repeated his call for the council to work with him on a plan that would allow him to meet their standards while “making sure the people can stay here in their house”.
“Council does not seem to care care that I provide an extremely important service for the justice department, for mental health,” Mr Buman said.
“All I am trying to do is provide affordable housing to a group of people that are otherwise going to be out on the streets. The council says my places don’t adhere to the letter of the law but they are still safe. There’s smoke alarms in every room, there’s fire extinguishers everywhere. If they want me to change things I will, but surely they have to go about it in a reasonable manner?”