11 July 2014

A Northampton landlord who failed to take the correct fire safety precautions in properties that were rented out to students, was sentenced this week, to six months imprisonment (suspended for 12 months), 150 hours of unpaid work, and fined £750 of fire service costs, with a victim surcharge of £100.

Jason Berrington, managing director of Student Housing Northamptonshire, pleaded guilty to ‘failure to take general fire precautions at all three properties, failure to comply with an enforcement notice at one property and a breach of a prohibition notice at another’.

Chief Fire Officer Martyn Emberson commented: “This case clearly demonstrates how seriously fire safety breaches are viewed by the courts. I hope it sends a clear message out to landlords and managing agents across Northamptonshire. Responsible Persons need to act responsibly.

“We proactively look for suspected HMOs because we know these are the highest risk premises, housing vulnerable people who are being exploited by landlords who won’t fit fire doors or fire alarm systems. These simple precautions are affordable and would save the lives of their tenants should a fire occur.

“Where we find systematic non-compliance or a severe breach putting lives at risk we will take enforcement action and in the serious cases we will prosecute those responsible.”

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection said: “I am very pleased that this action has been taken and I would like to recognise the efforts of our Fire Protection Officers in gathering evidence and preparing the case for court. 

“It demonstrates that we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against these types of individuals, who are selfishly putting people’s lives at risk.”

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.

Original source: Northampton Chronicle