A corporate landlord and its management company have been hit with a record £250,000 fine following a ‘potentially lethal’ flat blaze in Westminster which saw 13 people rescued by our firefighters.
The fine is the biggest financial penalty handed down in a fire safety prosecution case brought by London Fire Brigade relating to a single privately rented property. In addition to the fine the Brigade was awarded full prosecution costs of £49,500.
Property owner Crownpark Investments Ltd along with City Estates, which managed the six floor terraced house conversion were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, 25 May after pleading guilty to three offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Accident waiting to happen
Sentencing the defendants His Honour Judge Griffiths said the landlord and management company had been aware of the fire safety failings within the property but reacted “ by putting their heads in the sand”. He also added the building was an “accident waiting to happen.”
Fire broke out at the two 19th century houses on Eccleston Square, which had been converted into flats, during the early hours of 21 February 2011.
Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters were called to the blaze which ripped through the building and left its second, third and fourth floors badly damaged. Two people had to be rescued from the roof of the premises, four were rescued from the third floor and a further seven were led to safety out of the property by our fire crews.
Numerous fire safety failings
Following the fire, our fire safety inspectors discovered numerous fire safety failings which would have put the occupants at risk of ‘death or serious injury’ in the event of a fire. These included:
• The doors to the individual flats provided inadequate protection to the escape route in the event of a fire
• There was no fire alarm or fire detection system inside the flats or communal areas of the building
• There was no fire risk assessment in place for the building.
‘Utter contempt’ for tenants’ safety
Following the court case the Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said:
“The landlord and management company showed utter contempt for the safety of their tenants when they so blatantly ignored the fire safety failures in the building. Hopefully the size of the fine handed down in this case will send a strong message to other private landlords who ignore their fire safety responsibilities in such a brazen way.
“This was a potentially lethal fire and it was only thanks to the skill and bravery of the crews who rescued the17 residents trapped inside that nobody died or was seriously injured.
“The actions of the landlord and management company not only put the lives of the property’s occupants at risk they put the lives of those firefighters sent to tackle the blaze at risk .”
If you are a landlord, business owner or building owner you can find out more about the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order here.
List of charges and penalties
The defendants were sentenced to a total fine of £250,000 and ordered them to pay £49,500 costs
Crownpark Investments Ltd received a £100,000 fine and were ordered to pay £24,000 costs as follows:
Failing to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment – £80,000
Failing to equip the premises with adequate fire detection – £10,000
Failing to ensure persons could evacuate the premises safely – £10,000
City Estates received £150,000 fine and were ordered to pay £25,500 costs as follows:
Failing to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment – £120,000
Failing to equip the premises with adequate fire detection – £15,000
Failing to ensure persons could evacuate the premises safely – £15,000