£23k court case is warning to landlords

£23k court case is warning to landlords

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has welcomed the successful prosecution of a landlord, who will now have to pay almost £23,000 in fines and costs after serious fire safety breaches at his property.

Landlord Thomas Wallace from Hastings pleaded guilty to 38 charges in August and has been handed an overall fine of £19,000, plus costs of £3,565 and a victim surcharge of £170.

After being alerted by local police, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) officers visited the property in early January and a fire inspector found a number of serious problems in the house in multiple occupation (HMO), including:

  • a storage room containing a petrol grass strimmer, petrol can, dishwasher and other general items, which could have posed a risk in the event of fire, causing the entrance hall and single stair to flats above to become impassable from heat and smoke
  • fire extinguishers provided in the commonways had not been tested since 2002
  • there was no fire alarm present or emergency lighting installed  

ESFRS immediately installed interim smoke detection and reduced the risk of fire so that those living there were safe and did not have to be moved to a new home. The fire service then worked with Hastings Borough Council to bring the prosecution case against Mr Wallace.

Mark Andrews, deputy chief fire officer of ESFRS, said: ‘The issues in this property were so serious that we believed the lives of those living there were in danger if there was a fire. It is simply not acceptable. Landlords, owners and managers must do more to ensure that the properties they are responsible for are safe and to ensure that information on fire safety is passed on to residents so they know what to do in case of an emergency.’