A number of vulnerable people were left at serious risk of fire at a hostel for vulnerable people with a huge number of safety failings, resulting in a Liverpool landlord being hit with a bill of almost £25,000 for exposing vulnerable and homeless tenants to serious fire risks in the House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).
Step One (NW) Limited were issued a £20,000 fine by Liverpool Magistrates Court on Thursday 17 March for failure to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.
The court heard that the property, Lower Breck House on Lower Breck Road, is a large House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) that houses a wide range of vulnerable tenants, many of whom have suffered with homelessness, substance abuse, and other issues. Liverpool City Council and its partners do not place people there.
Officers from Liverpool council attended the site in March 2021 as the result of an anonymous complaint, and discovered that the property had 43 defective fire doors throughout the building, increasing the risk of fire spread.
The fire alarm sounders installed at the HMO failed to meet the required decibel level, meaning that residents may not have heard an alarm in the event of a fire. There were also issues regarding excessive use of intumescent foam which exceeded the permitted amount to be used and the cellar staircase not being adequately fire protected, and fire extinguishers in the property had out of date service records, some appearing to have had their last service as far back as 2016.
District Judge Healey noted that the defects at the property had “raised the risk” of fire spread and following guilty pleas on five counts from the company, imposed a fine of £20,000 plus costs of £4,747.61 and a victim surcharge of £190. The council also told the court that there had been a systemic failure to ensure the property was safe and adequately fire protected.
A HMO licence requires the holder to comply with certain legal obligations, including ensuring appropriate fire safety protocols are in place. As a result of the prosecution, Liverpool City Council will now undertake a review of the “fit and proper” status of the licence-holder.
Councillor Sarah Doyle, Cabinet Member for Strategic Housing and Regeneration, said: “This case reveals a shocking disregard for the safety of vulnerable tenants. The landlord was taking rent for people to live in unsafe conditions and I dread to think what could have happened if a fire had broken out in the property.
“We are determined to take action against landlords if they put tenants at risk, which is why we are also about to launch a new Landlord Licensing scheme which will give us the tools to identify and tackle private rented properties as well as HMOs.
“All of these measures form part of our determination to raise standards and improve the city’s neighbourhoods for residents.”
If you are a landlord and would like more information or advice on your legal obligations
Call 0800 080 3045
Email : Infor@legionellaandfiresafe.co.uk