Suspended sentence for landlord renting ‘death trap’ HMO

Suspended sentence for landlord renting ‘death trap’ HMO

A Wembley landlord who housed a family of five in a cramped attic has been prosecuted by London Fire Brigade after admitting numerous fire safety offences.

Fire chiefs described the crowded house of multiple occupation (HMO) on Ealing Road as a ‘potential death trap.’

Jan Ahmed, the leaseholder of premises above a barber’s shop, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 21 April 2017 after pleading guilty to ten offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Mr Ahmed’s sentence was 38 days in custody (suspended for six months), and he was also ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work and to pay £2,000 in prosecution costs.

At the time of the offences in January 2015, the HMO comprised seven first floor rooms and a second floor attic. The attic and all but one of the first floor rooms were occupied by paying tenants, with three of the rooms each being occupied by up to five people – the converted attic housing a family of five, including three children.

During their visit, the Brigade’s fire safety inspectors discovered numerous fire safety failings that would have put the occupants at risk of ‘death or serious injury’ in the event of a fire. These were as follows:

  • a poor loft conversion and a hole in the landing that could cause a fire to quickly spread
  • no fire alarm system or firefighting equipment
  • no safe emergency exits from the second floor loft room – escape was via a steep and unstable ‘ladder’ type, bolt together staircase and a trapdoor that had no adequate handle fitted on the inside
  • that none of the bedroom doors were fire doors
  • gaps above two of the doors that would cause fire spread and inhibit the ability of residents to escape
  • no emergency lighting to illuminate escape routes
  • that the electrical mains switch box in the hall was not fire protected, and a large hole was in the ceiling between the first floor landing and the loft area above
  • no evidence of a fire risk assessment

Deputy assistant commissioner for fire safety, Andy Hearn, said: ‘This building was a potential death trap. The crowded and cramped conditions, combined with the woefully inadequate fire safety provision, would have put the lives of those inside at serious risk if ever a fire had broken out.

‘It’s the responsibility of landlords under fire safety law to ensure their tenants are safe from the risk of fire. If we find they are not taking those responsibilities seriously we won’t hesitate to prosecute.’