A Coventry HMO landlord who was making a fortune by cramming people into his letting in a Coventry house has been given a jail sentence for putting his tenants’ lives at risk.
Gurmeet Singh’s activities came to light when one of his tenants woke in the middle of the night to discover that a fire had broken out and alerted the other residents.
Gurmeet Singh, owner of the letting in Ansty Road, Wyken, Coventry, pleaded guilty at the crown court in Leamington to eight charges of breaching fire safety regulations.
Singh, 66, of Heath Road, Stoke, Coventry, was jailed for nine months after also pleading guilty to a further offence of obstructing a fire inspector following the incident,
As reported by the Coventry Telegraph Judge Alan Parker said Singh had acted out of greed, making up to £4,000 a month out of the 16 occupants. He also ordered Singh to pay the West Midlands Fire Service’s costs of £7,436.70 within two months.
Mark Jackson, prosecuting for the Fire Service, told the Coventry Telegraph:
“The case is concerned with numerous fire safety breaches at a property owned by the defendant which was being used as a house in multiple occupancy.”
The fire had started in the ground-floor kitchen caused by a faulty fridge-freezer, which filled the kitchen and hallway with thick black toxic smoke.
But by the time the fire-fighters arrived at 3.15am it had been put out by a neighbour who tackled it with a hose. By then the Fire Brigade found a number of people on the drive, three of them suffering from smoke inhalation.
The house was not fitted with fire alarms, but fortunately for the other residents a woman living in a ground-floor room who had woken with a “feeling that something was wrong”.
By that time the thick black smoke had already reached the stairs, which were the only way out for tenants living on the first floor and in an attic room.
The woman who was the hero of the hour in this case, said she was paying £400 a month rent for her room and there were a total of 16 people living in nine rooms: in the house, the loft and the garage, which had also been converted into sleeping accommodation.
Mr Jackson, the Fire Officer’s inspection revealed ‘a catalogue of fire safety breaches.”
As well has having no hard wired fire alarm the “HMO”, which had no license for multi-occupancy, had no fire doors, no fire blanket in the kitchen and no other means of escape for people on the upper floors.
Crucially, the front door was locked by a deadlock which meant, in the event of a fire, occupants “having to hunt round a smoke-filled room for a key.”
When questioned after the incident Singh claimed the house had been let to a single family.
Judge Parker observed that Singh would have been making between £3,500 and £4,000 a month from the nine occupied rooms.
Jailing Singh, Judge Parker had said:
“The force of the prosecution case has always been that the defendant was making a very considerable profit from his defaults.
“I am entirely satisfied the amount of money he was receiving was substantially more than he is prepared to admit. He has continued to lie throughout.”