A Grimsby landlord has been jailed for “cutting corners” and deliberately putting his “wealth” before the “safety of tenants”, the judge said.
He was, according to the judge, “wholly money-orientated” and “woefully inadequate” in his duties – and it was only by “good fortune” that nobody died in a serious fire at one of his properties.
Keith Newsum, 54, of Humberston Avenue, Humberston was said to have lied to police and risked the lives of his tenants by failing to have a suitable fire risk assessment, the court heard.
Newsum admitted failing to have a sufficient fire risk assessment, failing to take general fire precautions and failing to have his HMO premises equipped with appropriate fire detectors and alarms.
Newsum also admitted failing to provide self-closing fire doors and failing to ensure fire doors were not wedged open.
He was jailed for five months and was ordered to pay £100,000 costs and £4,200 compensation to his tenants.
Judge Peter Kelson QC told Grimsby Crown Court: “He was wholly money-orientated.
“This case demonstrates how quickly fire spreads and how dangerous it is.
“Whatever he did do was woefully inadequate and a failure to appreciate sufficiently the fire risks.
“You put your wealth before your tenants’ welfare. You did not carry out fire assessments.
“You never took advice from a fire safety expert. You did it all yourself. You put wealth before welfare.
“You were corner-cutting, just as you were with electrical work.
“It’s only by the actions of residents that they all got out alive. It’s a matter of sheer good fortune.”
Newsum had lied to his barrister at a previous hearing but the “lie has been exposed”, said Judge Kelson.
“You are a man consumed by putting your own finances before the safety of your tenants,” he said.
“You were trying to protect your profits. I can’t believe a word you say about your finances.
“You are a landlord who is more concerned with your wealth than your tenants’ welfare. You’re putting profit before safety.
“You have deliberately cut corners to increase your profits. Nothing is ever straightforward with you.”
No risk assessment whatsoever had been carried out since 2004 and the alarms were not inter-connected.
The Grimsby Telegraph reported that Benjamin Williams, mitigating, said that Newsum would put his wife in control of his properties while he was in prison.
It was said that it might be that some of his assets would have to be “liquidated” to pay the costs and compensation bill within the 18 months ordered.
Chairman of the Humber Landlords Association, Guy Piggott told the Grimsby Telegraph:
“It is regretful that it has taken a fire and the very real potential for loss of life to highlight the need for being aware of, and acting upon the regulations that govern lettings.
“Humber Landlords Association (HLA) are constantly striving for improvement within the Private Rented Sector, this includes attendance at our quarterly meeting by professionals to give advice on legislation, health and safety issues as well as on best practice within the industry.
“During 2014/15 HLA arranged several courses on Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and more than twenty members passed a field assessment to prove competency. This qualification enables them to assess and manage the risks not only within their own properties but also to assist other members with theirs. During 2016 the focus turned to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and a number of members attended a course in that covered Management Regulations and Fire Awareness, once again raising awareness amongst members of some of the issues surrounding HMO’s.
“Whilst any reminder of the regulations, and more importantly the consequences of failure to pay due regard to these is always welcomed by responsible landlords I believe that our members are amongst the best informed in the area. It is the aim of our organisation to set the benchmark for not only health and safety within our rented properties but also that of quality and management of the accommodation provided.”
Anyone wishing to find out more about the Humber Landlords Association can contact the secretary Natalie on 07553589055 or 07971422952
HMO Landlord Jailed and Fined over £100,000 – https://t.co/3bZvSjvvA6
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) September 6, 2016