27 April 2017
The landlord of a Holland Park property, described by a District Judge as a "deathtrap" and an "accident waiting to happen", has been fined £57,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,825 and a victim surcharge of £120 after a sentencing hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday 26 April.
David Leslie Symonds, landlord of 118 Woodsford Square W14, which lacked a proper fire detection system and several other fire precautions, pleaded guilty on Wednesday 1 March to two offences under the Housing Act 2004, one offence under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and 18 breaches of House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations at the same court.
The property, a 1950s four-storey, mid-terraced building, was let to six tenants.
Environmental health officers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea inspected the flat after being alerted by the fire brigade, which had been called out to a fire at the property.
Officers found a number of safety breaches. While the flat did have a battery-operated smoke detector in the ground floor hallway, there was no automatic fire detection system within the property, meaning there was no proper early warning system to alert occupants of a fire.
There was also an absence of fire safety equipment, fixtures and fittings including smoke seals and fire separation between bedsit rooms. There was an absence of fire doors to some rooms and damaged fire doors to others, with holes in at least one of the doors. This increased the likelihood of a fire spreading through the building rapidly.
All of the bedsit rooms were fitted with key-operated locks meaning that, in the event of a fire, there was a risk of the occupant being locked in their room.
There were loose electrical cables with multiple electrical adaptors being used, which could increase the likelihood of a fire occurring due to extra load on electrical circuits.
There was no evidence of a current Gas Safe certificate for the boiler or heating system. One escape route, a staircase leading to the property’s garden, was obstructed by a table, chairs and a gas cylinder.
The court heard that Mr Symonds failed to apply for a HMO licence, which was required as the property had six tenants who were not related.
In mitigation, the court heard that Symonds accepted he was not managing his affairs properly at the time and that he could have benefitted from the services of a property management agent.
At sentencing, defence mitigated that Symonds did not have flagrant disregard for his responsibilities, rather he had a medical condition and was not capable of managing property. Moreover, it learned that Symonds is no longer letting the Woodsford Square property and is due to sell it.
Symonds was also given credit for an early guilty plea.
On sentencing, District Judge Coleman said the building was an "accident waiting to happen".
More information about landlords’ HMO responsibilities can be found online at www.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/living-healthy-homes/houses-multiple-occupation
Fire safety advice for residential buildings can also be found online at www.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/living-healthy-homes/houses-multiple-occupation/fire-safety-advice
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