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07 April 2015
A landlord in Coventry has been jailed for nine months after it was found he was housing 16 people in one property, breaching fire safety rules.
The owner, Gurmeet Singh, pleaded guilty to breaching eight separate charges and a further offence of obstructing a fire inspector.
Mr Singh was also ordered to pay West Midlands Fire Service’s costs of £7,436.70.
The court heard how Mr Singh was making as much as £4000 per month in rent from his tenants.
The safety breach emerged after a fire broke out in the property as a result of a faulty fridge-freezer on the ground floor.
The alarm was raised by one of the tenants, who fortuitously woke in the middle of the night and managed to alert the other occupants, ensuring their safe escape. Upon arrival, fire crews found the occupants on the driveway, with three suffering from smoke inhalation.
An inspection of the premises found that there were no fire alarms and only five battery-operated smoke detectors. Only some of these were working correctly.
In addition, none of the rooms in the house, which was not registered for multi-occupancy, had fire doors, there was no fire blanket in the kitchen and no other means of escape for people on the upper floor. The front door was also locked with a deadlock.
Mark Jackson, prosecuting for the Fire Service, said: “The case is concerned with numerous fire safety breaches at a property owned by the defendant which was being used as a house in multiple occupancy.”
Sentencing, Judge Alan Parker said: “Many people were at direct risk when the fire broke out. When so many people are living in individual rooms, the risk of there being a huge tragedy significantly increases.”
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.