Magistrates at Nuneaton County Court have fined HMO landlord Manjit Chima nearly £11,000, having taken into account the “very serious offences” he committed, including failing to provide and maintain fire precautions in an House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) which had put his tenants’ lives in danger.
A fire at Chima’s two-storey house, which is split into seven bedsits, had led to him being caught out when the Fire Services were called to the incident.
The fire, which started in the shared kitchen in the property at 83 Westlea Road, Leamington, meant that the tenants were lucky to escape, suffering only smoke inhalation following the fire.
An investigation by the Fire Service and Warwick District Council discovered that doors leading from the kitchen had previously been removed by the landlord, which meant there was no way to contain any fire in the room. A garage and outbuilding had also been converted into flats with had no means of escape in the event of a fire.
The fire alarm provided failed to operate properly when tested, and when asked Mr Chima was unable to provide any servicing records for the alarm, or for any gas and electric inspections.
Nuneaton Magistrates told Chima that had taken into account the fact that the offences were “very serious” and had put his tenants’ lives in danger.
Councillor Peter Phillips, spokesman for housing services, told the Leamington Observer:
“The vast majority of landlords work well with the council and provide good quality accommodation. The situation at 82 Westlea Road could easily have had a tragic outcome. Council officers will not hesitate to prosecute where tenants’ health and safety is put at risk by landlords blatantly disregarding the law.”
The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The Act provides a detailed definition of HMOs and sets out standards of management for this type of property.
Management Regulations (or more formally The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006) apply to all HMOs (whether or not they are licensable) and impose certain duties on managers and occupiers of such buildings. Broadly those duties include but are not restricted to a requirement that:
- provides his or her contact details to the occupiers
- keeps means of escape from fire free from obstruction and in repair and maintains fire fighting equipment and alarms
- takes reasonable measures to ensure that the occupiers of the HMO are not injured on account of its design and structural condition
- ensures there is adequate drainage from the HMO and an adequate water supply and such supply is not unreasonably interrupted
- supplies annual gas safety certificates (if gas is supplied) to the council when requested, carries out safety checks on electrical installations every five years and ensures the supply of gas (if any) and electricity is not unreasonably interrupted
- keeps in repair (including decorative repair) and good order the common parts (including any fixtures and fittings within it)
- maintains any shared garden and keeps in repair any structures belonging to the HMO
- keeps in repair the occupiers’ living accommodation within the HMO, including fixtures and fittings; and
- provides suitable facilities for the disposal of rubbish.
In addition to the HMO management legislation, the Housing Act 2004 covers all rented accommodation within the UK. Amongst other things the Act concentrates on health and safety in the house. An assessment system has been put in place to evaluate risks in residential property known as the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).