Fine for landlord after house fire

Fine for landlord after house fire

TERRY MILLIS, who had owned a house in Worthing that caught fire last year, admitted he ‘put the lives of five residents’ in the property ‘at risk’.

Worthing Herald reported on the case against Mr Millis, who had owned the three storey Victorian house that was split into flats in the town. The flats shared a central staircase, and prosecutor Michael Stoneman stated that West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS) had ‘received a phone call to attend a fire’, with its watch manager noticing ‘smoke issuing from the building and four of the residents were stood outside the property’.

District Judge Tessa Szagun added that the fire ‘was in the process of spreading to the loft’, and that it was ‘ascertained that there were two people trapped inside on the second floor of the property due to the stairs being smoke logged’. She added that ‘fortunately the brave firefighters managed to rescue the two people trapped’, who both ‘escaped without major injury, though one was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation’.

Mr Stoneman noted in turn that Mr Millis ‘did not have a fire risk assessment’ for the building, and ‘was aware that the fire alarm was not in working order’, while several smoke detectors ‘had the manufacturer’s dust covers still on them, rendering them non-responsive to smoke’. Mr Millis had got in touch with a company to repair the fire alarm two months before the fire, but ‘the work had not been done’, those attending at Brighton Magistrates’ Court were told.

The prosecutor also added that a resident ‘explained that she had lived in the property for four years and had never heard the fire alarm sound’, with these ‘failures to have the fire regulations in place resulted in the lives of the residents being in danger’. Mr Stoneman pointed out that Mr Millis ‘was aware that the alarm wasn’t working and the danger that the residents were at risk of’.

It was revealed that the fire had been caused by a cooking surface ‘being left unattended’. In defence of Mr Millis, Chris Chatterton stated that the landlord had ‘checked the alarms every month in the daytime’, adding that ‘that would explain why there were no alarm tests heard by residents. The fire itself is through no fault of Mr Millis. Immediately following this Mr Millis instructed the company to replace the alarms. That has been done’.

Mr Chatterton also cited Mr Millis’ ‘significant’ health problems that he had suffered from ‘in the lead up to the fire, and still deals with today’. However, Judge Szagun told Mr Millis that he had a ‘high level of culpability’ in the fire, adding that ‘the purpose of sentencing in this type of case is to protect the safety of individuals living in such premises by ensuring that there is no financial gain by any person cutting corners. [There is] also a necessity to deter others from doing so’.

After Mr Millis pleaded guilty, he was fined £20,000, a reduction from £30,000 due to the guilty plea, and was ordered to pay £1,743 costs to West Sussex County Council.