09 July 2014

A property letting company and its former director have been prosecuted for breaching fire safety legislation following a fire in a basement flat in Harrogate in December 2012.

An inspection of the premises by fire safety officers identified deficiencies in the required fire protection measures. There was no fire alarm or detection system in the property, which also lacked self-closing fire doors. The company had also failed to asses the fire risk to the premises.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority decided to prosecute Rava Properties Limited and its former director Nigel Rudd because of the seriousness of the fire protection deficiencies and their associated risks.

Rava Properties Limited and Mr Rudd pleaded guilty to two contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at a hearing in Harrogate Magistrates Court on 2 July 2014.

Rava Properties Limited was fined a total of £6000 and ordered to pay in full prosecution costs of £1498.16p. Mr Rudd was fined  £6000.    

In sentencing, Magistrates stated that: “These were two serious offences. Firstly in not having conducted a fire risk assessment (breach of article 9). And secondly in failing to provide adequate general fire precautions (breach of article 8). There was a vulnerable victim in the basement flat who had limited access to the outside and a young family in the upstairs flat. The defendants’ experience of letting property should have ensured that there were appropriate safety measures in the property.”

Prosecutor Karen Galloway said: “The decision to prosecute is only taken in the most serious cases and it is not a decision taken lightly. The Responsible Person is always in a position of authority, their lack of actions should have been foreseeable to prevent, in the event of fire, persons being put at risk of death or injury. The contraventions in this case were serious.”

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is urging business owners and those with responsibility for any premises, where the fire safety order applies, to ensure that they have conducted their fire risk assessment.

Station Manager David Watson explained: “The majority of business premises that we visit under our audit schedule are well-managed and are conscientious about fire safety matters.

“We do, however, continue to find a number of business premises, flats and shared housing, where the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order applies, which do not have adequate fire risk assessments or fire safety provisions.”

He continued: “In premises where sleeping takes place it is vitally important that the correct measures are provided and maintained. When fire alarm and detection systems are not provided or not maintained in full working order those people who are sleeping in a building may well have their lives put at risk in the event of a fire.

“Fire safety officers always try to work with businesses and business owners to ensure they are compliant or can achieve compliance with the requirements of the legislation within an acceptable timescale. Unfortunately in this case the risk of fire had materialised and lives were put at risk. The conviction shows how seriously the Fire Authority and the Courts view those who put the safety of others at risk in the event of a fire.”

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.