The incident, which happened back in 2016, has now been published in full in a report by the Council to justify its claim for a new licensing scheme. The report emphasises “the diligent and vital work of Liverpool City Council’s enforcement teams in the private rented sector.”
The council is currently consulting on the proposed new landlord licensing scheme to govern its private rented sector to replace a previous city-wide scheme after the government knocked its renewal back.
In a series of reports outlining issues facing the city’s private tenants, designed to highlight the plight of some of the city’s poorest residents, one incident involved a property on Princes Road in Toxteth. The property was so unsafe it became the subject of an Emergency Prohibition Order after the problems identified by the Council’s officers were so severe they referred to it to as a “fire trap”.
“After gaining entry, the case was referred to the Housing Enforcement Team (HET) for inspection as they were concerns about fire safety.
“The tenants were in a vulnerable position as many did not have English as their first language.
“The landlord (Mr T) was contacted immediately and found to be living between Libya and Portsmouth, and not managing the property. The tenants may not have realised that their property was such a serious fire trap,” the Council’s report says.
Even more remarkable was that while the property was supposed to be closed down by the Emergency Prohibition Order, in an inspection nine months later Council officers found it was still occupied.
Reports published in the Liverpool Echo newspaper detailed many issues currently facing private tenants in the City, and below is the detailed history of this one extreme case.
“After the enforcement officers gained entry, the case was referred to the Housing Enforcement Team for inspection, as there were concerns about fire safety. The tenants were in a vulnerable position as many did not have English as their first language. The landlord, Mustafa Taghdi, was contacted immediately and found to be living between Libya and Portsmouth and not managing the property. The tenants may not have realised that their property was such a serious fire trap.”
The Council’s enforcement officers discovered that the fire escape route out of the house was obstructed by piles of domestic waste and furniture. This would have made a quick escape from the property in the event of a fire almost impossible. To add to this danger the fire alarm system was found to be faulty.
Had a fire started the fire escape signs in the building led residents to another of the third floor designated fire escapes which the officers found was locked, with no way out of a burning building through that route.
The report said that this situation could have led to “potentially devastating consequences” and that “coupled with the absence of any property management” by the landlord or any agent, the officers “had little choice but to shut down the premises immediately due to the imminent risk of serious harm to residents”.
Following this, Taghdi was contacted and was advised of his responsibilities in respect of managing the multi-occupied building and to ensure that while the EPO was in force the building was to be vacated. This in turn was followed by three formal inspection visits, made at the property on 28 November 2016, 22 March 2017 and again on 22 August 2017.
It was later found that some remedial work had been started at the premises, but that quality of work wasn’t deemed to be of a sufficient standard to consider removing the Emergency Prohibition Order originally issued in November 2016. In addition to that the inspection revealed that there were people still living on the premises, even after nine months.
“During the visit, it became apparent that there were still tenants occupying the flats and almost none of the required works had been carried out. As this was a breach of the original Emergency Prohibition Order, information was passed to the housing solicitor as were details of ongoing Health and Safety risks,” the report states.
District Judge Wendy Lloyd presiding over the case at Liverpool Magistrates Court, said of Taghdi:
“The lack of fire precautions was shocking. Distant landlords are not all bad, but they must be vigilant and must not exploit tenants for profit. In reality, although Mr Taghdi co-operated with the investigation, he did put his tenants at risk.
“The first breach of the Emergency Prohibition Order was bad enough, but the second breach was greatly aggravated. There was no real fire protection and, even though some remedial work had been done, it was mere lip service and, in effect, providing window dressing for a dangerous situation. Mr Taghdi chose to take the risks he did as he was putting profit first. He doesn’t have to buy and rent out property in Liverpool.”
“The Emergency Prohibition Order breaches are the most important because of the safety issues. This case reveals the importance of licensing in a large area like Liverpool,” she concluded.
Taghdi eventually pleaded guilty to 17 separate charges and was ordered to pay a total of nearly £16,000 in fines and costs. The property he owned was eventually made safe to occupy.
The fine breaks down as follows:
£6,500 for operating the unlicensed properties which were required to be licensed under the Landlord Licensing Scheme, £2,000 for the first breach of the Emergency Prohibition Order and £4,000 for the second breach. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120 and, indeed, the City Council’s full costs of £3,034.04. A total fine of £15,654.04.