29 September 2014

A London-based landlord was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £3,807 after failing to comply with a Formal Improvement Notice served by St Helens Council.

Criminal law solicitor Grace France admitted the charge during a trial at St Helens Magistrates’ Court.

The council became concerned about conditions at a house in Prescot Road which had been converted into six bedsits.

Over a four-year period council officers had attempted to work with the landlord to remedy a series of disrepair issues – including lack of a fire alarm system, damp and excess cold.

After serving two ‘Minded To’ notices – aimed at gaining a reasonable working relationship with the landlord – the necessary repair work failed to take place and conditions grew worse.

A Formal Improvement Notice was served in January 2013 but work had still not been completed.

A re-inspection in December 2013 revealed that little work had taken place – with conditions deteriorating further. Throughout the process – until November 2013 – tenants had continued to occupy the bedsits.

St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing, Planning and Community Safety Councillor Richard McCauley commented: “This case shows that no one is above the law – and that we will take the appropriate action when necessary.

“Credit must go to the council officers who pursued this case with diligence and determination – and whose job it is to protect the rights of tenants across the borough.”

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.