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Negligent Rochdale landlords fined

TWO women who put lives in danger at their property in Rochdale have been fined more than £15,000 following coordinated council and fire service prosecutions.

Balvinder Kaur, aged 48, and her niece Amrit Singh, aged 31, were convicted at Bury and Rochdale Magistrates’ Court on Monday, November 17, 2014, for a series of fire safety failings at an unlicensed property on Grimshaw Lane in Middleton.

The pair pleaded guilty to five offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and one offence under the Housing Act 2004.

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The prosecutions by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA) and Rochdale Borough Council (RBC) followed a fire in the back yard of the property on March 22, 2014.

Firefighters extinguished the fire and noticed a flat above the shop which was being used by three people. Fearing that the flat wasn’t safe the crew called out a specialist fire protection manager and a full inspection was carried out.

The officer found a number of issues including:

  • No proper fire alarm system
  • Lack of fire separation between different areas of the building to prevent fire spread
  • No fire resistance between the basement and floor above, which was the only way to and from the flat – meaning a fire in the basement would spread without warning
  • Lack of emergency lighting on the staircase
  • Stairs up to the flat were directly above the shop and a missing riser meant a fire in the shop would have spread onto the staircase and potentially trap the tenants
  • There were four bedrooms accessed from a lounge and kitchen with no fire door – meaning a fire in the kitchen would spread into the lounge and toxic smoke could pass into the bedrooms and potential kill anyone sleeping
  • No fire risk assessment

The basement was used to store combustible items and contained an electricity intake and meters, which are a potential source of fire. North West Electricity attended and after advising that the meter had been bypassed, it was disconnected.

The flat was considered to be so dangerous that a Prohibition Notice was immediately served, preventing anyone from living in the flat until it was made safe.

The premises were also reported to Rochdale Council’s Housing Team who confirmed that the property didn’t have a licence from them. Rochdale Council operates a borough-wide licensing scheme for multi-occupied properties to ensure landlords meet safety standards.

Kaur, of Daventry Road, Chorlton, and Singh, of Talbot Road, Stretford, both expressed remorse and explained that they had relied on family members to look after the property and should have done more themselves.

Fining the pair £1,000 each for each of the six offences, Chair of the Bench Harold Robinson said: “These regulations exist to protect life – by ignoring them you have endangered life. You ran the property as a business and were extremely negligent.”

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In addition to the £6,000 fines, Kaur and Singh were both ordered to pay £1,400 in fire service costs and £300 council costs with a victim surcharge of £120. They were both given three months to pay £7,832 in full or face further sanctions.

Assistant County Fire Officer Peter O’Reilly, GMFRS’ Director of Prevention and Protection, said: “This case highlights that ignorance of the law is really no defence. These two women who had never been in trouble before have been handed a criminal record and hefty fines because they gave no thought to fire safety.

“Landlords who collect rent must make sure that their properties are safe or face the consequences. Fortunately there was no fire inside the building or the consequences would have been far worse.” 

Gillian Lucas, Private Rented Sector Officer for Rochdale Council, said: “It is totally unacceptable to have a property where tenants' lives are put at risk because a landlord fails to comply with statutory requirements for multi-occupied premises.   

“The housing legislation that the Council enforces protects residents from unscrupulous landlords who do not manage their properties properly and do not take their position as landlord seriously.

“This conviction should warn other landlords that if they do not act responsibly and meet their legal obligations, we will prosecute.” 

Last update: 23/03/2016 08:19:29
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