Refugees put up in Leuven hotel after arrest of slum landlords

Refugees put up in Leuven hotel after arrest of slum landlords
The Ibis Budget hotel in central Leuven, where the refugees are being temporarily housed ©

Leuven city council has moved 18 recognised refugees into a city hotel after they were found living in a building owned by a notorious “slumlord” family. The building had been declared unfit for human habitation.

Last month father and son Arnold and Manu Appeltans were arrested as the result of an investigation into 55 slums rented out to tenants in Leuven. The two were later freed on licence under certain conditions.

The pair are accused of renting out apartments in buildings that have been condemned, using false names on leases, renting properties without basic amenities, as well as stealing electricity from at least one tenant. That case continues.

The relocation of the refugees, said Leuven city councillor for housing Lies Corneillie, was “a temporary solution to an immediate problem.” The 18 tenants were moved into the Ibis Budget hotel in the city.

Four properties belonging to the Appeltans family were immediately declared uninhabitable,” Corneillie said. “A similar procedure is still under way for three other properties. In a case of a property declared unfit for habitation, the law says that no-one should be made homeless and the social aid agency has the responsibility to find a solution. In the first instance we go together with these people in search of a temporary solution in their surroundings, to see if there is anywhere they can stay with friends or family. After that we examine the possibility of emergency housing, and if that doesn’t provide a solution we bring the people temporarily into a hotel, as has happened now. It’s a temporary solution. And because we are dealing with a declaration of the property being uninhabitable, we will recoup the hotel costs from the landlord.”

The city council and the social aid agency OCMW is now looking for a more durable solution, with possibilities including social housing, accommodation in an abbey, or an appeal to the public for possible rented accommodation.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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