Plymouth woman prosecuted for ‘ignoring’ fire regulations
JEAN HENDY was found guilty of breaching fire regulations at a property she was advertising on the Airbnb rental service.
Plymouth Herald reported on the case against Mrs Hendy, who was said to have ‘put lives at risk by breaching fire regulations’ in her home, which was rented out through the Airbnb website. Among her breaches included not putting batteries in fire alarms, having ‘the wrong locks on doors’ and having one fire extinguisher ‘which had not been tested since 2002’, as well as failing to ‘remove potentially toxic tiles’ or ‘provide emergency lighting’.
In more detail, inspectors noted a ‘lack of a suitable automatic fire detection and warning system’ as well as ‘inappropriate storage of bedding and other combustible materials at the base of the single staircase’ in the three-storey building in Devonport. It had been inspected by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue in August last year, and Mrs Hendy had been warned by the council of some of the failings, but ‘still failed to take action’, with the case being heard at Plymouth Crown Court.
The inspection had been instigated after the city council contacted the fire service, as well as after a complaint from a member of the public. Mrs Hendy occupied the ground floor, and ‘advertised the use of the upper floors’ on Airbnb as well as a number of other ‘recognised holiday hosting websites’, with accommodation for up to nine people.
In court, it was revealed that Mrs Hendy had been forced to sell the property, and her defence barrister Nick Lewin stated that many people advertised homes on Airbnb with ‘complete and utter ignorance of fire regulations’. He also argued that Mrs Hendy ‘had had a difficult life and had struggled but succeeded in bringing up her children well’, as well as having ‘devoted free time to charity and her friends’.
In her sale of the property, she lost around £45,000 on the asking price, and in sentencing, Judge Ian Lawrie gave her a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to pay £5,580 prosecution costs and a £115 victim surcharge, with the prison sentence suspended due to Mrs Hendy’s ill health, her guilty plea to ‘six breaches of fire safety regulations’, and a lack of previous convictions.
Judge Lawrie commented to her in court: ‘You have created the risk of a potential death trap if fire ever broke out. Whenever you rent out a property in whatever circumstances there is a clear obligation to ensure the fire safety of everyone. There is certainly a risk of cost-cutting at the expense of safety.’
Paul Bray, group manager and business safety manager for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, added: ‘Anyone who has or is thinking of turning their home into a business providing sleeping accommodation has a duty to ensure the people staying on their premises will be kept safe.’