We put our trust in landlords, believing they will take the necessary measures to keep their tenants safe, but this is not always the case. In February 2018, the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service inspected the Derby Court Hotel in Preston, and immediately evacuated the tenants when they discovered how careless the landlord had been with fire safety.
What were the fire safety breaches?
The landlord, Graham Hammer, inherited the four storey building from his father in 1982 and then converted it into a hotel. However, recently he started renting out several of the rooms as a house of multiple occupancy. Hammer had already been fined £500 in 2006 for fire safety breaches, and was given action points by the fire service, which he didn’t carry out.
The fire brigade arrived to find tradesmen living in the building while works were underway. Power tools were left unsupervised while plugged in, wires were trailing along the floor, and there were holes in the ceiling. When officers inspected the safety systems they found fire doors which didn’t fit, or were jammed, and a faulty fire alarm. Hammer even told them that recently water had been leaking into the electrical systems, but he didn’t seem to realise how this could cause a fire. The officers asked for a copy of his risk assessment, but the document they received was from 2006, and any changes had been made with correction fluid.
In court, recorder Philip Parry declared, “in my judgement you displayed a casual, if not cavalier attitude to fire safety”. It was decided that the only reason Hammer could have been so careless was in an attempt to save money.
What action did the fire service take?
The landlord had put his tenants, which included vulnerable children, at risk of severe injury or death, and so this resulted in the fire brigade evacuating the residents and shutting the building down.
In court, Hammer pleaded guilty to four fire safety breaches:
- Failure to carry out an acceptable risk assessment in relation to maintenance, fire drills and monitoring.
- Failing to complete general fire safety precautions such as ensuring adequate separation.
- Failure to maintain systems which prevent severe injury or death.
- Failing to maintain the necessary means of escape.
Hammer was sentenced to six months, and suspended for 12 months with a two month curfew of 6am to 7pm. He was fined £20,000, as well as £18,790 in prosecution expenses. Hammer then sold the building to a developer who was planning to turn it into student accommodation.
Fire safety needed in housing:
In housing of multiple occupation, like the one Hammer was running, a landlord should do everything possible to protect the tenants, not only the legal minimum. It is particularly important in these buildings because there are many things that can go wrong when people living together don’t know each other.
The main fire safety measures needed:
- It is imperative that a landlord has the required equipment, such as blankets, fire alarms and fire extinguishers. The landlord also needs to make sure they are in acceptable working condition, and are installed properly.
- A landlord must ensure exits are clear from obstructions in case of emergencies.
- It is a requirement for landlords to carry out annual gas safety checks.
- The fire exits in the building have to be clearly marked, and the tenants should have access to instructions on what to do in a fire, preferably displayed on a communal wall.
- The electrical systems in the building must be checked once every five years at the least.
If you are interested in learning more about fire safety, or need to purchase some new fire safety equipment for your property, then Fire Action is the best choice. We are the South East’s number one fire and security provider, and provide efficient, expert service throughout Sidcup, Bromley and Kent. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.