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20 November 2014
Two landlords who put lives in danger at their property in Rochdale have been fined more than £15,000 this week, after being successfully prosecuted for a series of fire safety failings at an unlicensed property.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA) and Rochdale Borough Council (RBC) decided to prosecute after attending a fire in the back yard last March.
“Firefighters extinguished the fire and noticed a flat above the shop which was being used by three people. Fearing that the flat wasn’t safe the crew called out a specialist fire protection manager and a full inspection was carried out,” said GMFRA.
The inspection found
• No proper fire alarm system
• Lack of fire separation between different areas of the building to prevent fire spread
• No fire resistance between the basement and floor above, which was the only way to and from the flat – meaning a fire in the basement would spread without warning
• Lack of emergency lighting on the staircase
• Stairs up to the flat were directly above the shop and a missing riser meant a fire in the shop would have spread onto the staircase and potentially trap the tenants
• There were four bedrooms accessed from a lounge and kitchen with no fire door – meaning a fire in the kitchen would spread into the lounge and toxic smoke could pass into the bedrooms and potential kill anyone sleeping
• No fire risk assessment
In addition, combustible items and an electricity intake and meters were discovered in the basement of the building.
“The flat was considered to be so dangerous that a Prohibition Notice was immediately served, preventing anyone from living in the flat until it was made safe,” said GMFRS.
Balvinder Kaur, aged 48, and her niece Amrit Singh were fined £1000 each for each of the six offences and ordered to pay £1400 in fire service costs, as well as £300 council costs with a victim surcharge of £120. They were both given three months to pay £7832 in full or face further sanctions.
Assistant County Fire Officer Peter O’Reilly, GMFRS’ Director of Prevention and Protection, said: “This case highlights that ignorance of the law is really no defence. These two women who had never been in trouble before, have been handed a criminal record and hefty fines because they gave no thought to fire safety.
“Landlords who collect rent must make sure that their properties are safe or face the consequences. Fortunately there was no fire inside the building or the consequences would have been far worse.”
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.