A landlady has been fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 prosecution costs for breaking fire safety laws following a fatal fire in one of the Hounslow properties she rented out.
The fire, which was in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) containing 10 people; required four fire engines and 20 fire fighters to tackle the blaze which affected the ground floor, first floor and loft. A number of people managed to escape the first floor of the property but one of the residents was found in the heavily smoke logged kitchen on the ground floor. He was taken to hospital where he died shortly afterwards.
A neighbouring house, also owned by the landlady and used as an HMO, was inspected by the Fire Brigade. They issued a prohibition notice, preventing its use as residential accommodation until it had been fitted with suitable fire separation, adequate fire detection and emergency lighting.
The prosecution was for four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and cited a failure to:
- make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk;
- appropriately equip premises with fire detection;
- appropriately equip premises with firefighting equipment; and
- ensure that persons can evacuate premises as quickly and safely as possible.
A spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: “Landlords have a responsibility to keep their tenants safe from fire and if they are ignoring those responsibilities and putting the people living in their properties at risk we will not hesitate to prosecute. The sentence handed down is a stark reminder to landlords that the courts take fire safety as seriously as we do and that the penalties for ignoring it are severe.”
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers or those who have control over a premises (known as the ‘responsible person’) are required to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings. The risk assessment should also identify actions which need to be taken in order to protect the building from fire. It must be kept under constant review and amended if any changes are made to the premises. All too often Fire Authorities discover buildings that do not have an adequate fire risk assessment and as a result have fire exits blocked, inadequate fire alarms or poor training for staff.
Please contact Ellis Whittam if you have any questions regarding fire safety.