Fire safety failures result in £88k fine

The owner of a property in Westcliff, Southend has been fined £88,000 for a ‘string of failures’ in the home, including fire safety issues

According to local reports, the prosecution involved freeholder Mr Arise, whose full name was not provided by Southend Council, over 17 ‘failures of management’ at the property. The council received reports of antisocial behaviour ‘from, and associated with’ the house in multiple occupation, and undertook a site visit, during which they discovered the property was in ‘poor condition’. Fire door

A full inspection then followed, which established ‘window joints being held together with tape’, damp external rendering, ‘defective’ guttering, boarded up windows, leaking pipes and uneven flooring. Further, broader issues included a failure to display management contact details in a prominent position, and a failure to ‘ensure all escape routes of the property were kept clear of obstruction’.

This was because both the kitchen and hallways were obstructed, and Mr Arise had ‘not maintained the 30-minute fire protected escape route’. Other issues consisted of a failure to inspect and test the electrical installation – the certificate was 12 months overdue – as well as failing to ensure all outbuildings were maintained, with a rear shed collapsed and ivy restricting access to the front door.

Finally, there had been a ‘failure to provide sufficient’ bins or provisions for storing refuse and ‘no evidence’ of any waste or recycling arrangements, with the council’s private sector housing team taking action against Mr Arise and a second operator of the HMO. Mr Arise, as freeholder, was found guilty of the aforementioned 17 HMO Regulations breaches, but ‘did not attend’ the hearing. The second operator ‘sought and was granted’ an adjournment to enter a not guilty plea.

While the second owner’s trial is set for 26 June ‘dependent on the on-going coronavirus outbreak’, Mr Arise was fined £85,000, consisting of £5,000 for each of the 17 offences, and ordered to pay council costs of £3,795 and a victim surcharge for a total fine of £88,796.

Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with responsibility for housing, stated: “Seeing the extent of the problems at this property was quite frankly shocking. There is no excuse for allowing a property to fail on so many different safety measures, which is supported by the severity of the fine given. Whilst we continue to support the Government’s guidance around staying at home, it is important residents have appropriate conditions to live in, and we hope this fine serves as a deterrent to those who fail to maintain their properties appropriately.”