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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

Fire Service welcomes £23k court case as warning to landlords

Date : 30 August 2017


East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is welcoming the successful prosecution of a landlord, who will now have to pay nearly £23,000 in fines and costs after fire safety breaches.

Thomas Wallace from Breadsell Farm, Breadsell Lane, Hastings appeared in court after the Service worked with Hastings Borough Council, which brought a case against him.

This August, he pleaded guilty to 38 charges and was given an overall fine of £19,000 plus costs £3,564.96 and a Victim Surcharge of £170, giving a total of £22,734.96 for him to pay.

Mark Andrews, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said:

“The issues in this property were so serious we believed that the lives of those living there were in danger if there was a fire. It is simply not acceptable.  Landlords, owners and managers must do more to ensure that the properties they are responsible for are safe, and ensure information on fire safety is passed on to residents so they know what to do in case of an emergency. ”

The case against Mr Wallace

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service visited a property on Charles Road in St Leonards on 5 January 2017, after being called in by Sussex Police concerned about fire safety.
The property is an end of terrace building comprising of flats situated over ground and four upper floors with a separate lower ground floor. It is classed as a "House of Multiple Occupancy". The fire safety inspector found a number of serious problems including:

  • A storage room containing a petrol grass strimmer, petrol can, dishwasher and other general items. These all could have posed a risk if there was a fire, causing the entrance hall and single stair to flats above to become impassable from heat and smoke.
  • Fire extinguishers provided in the commonways had not been tested since 2002.
  • There was no fire alarm present or emergency lighting installed.  
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service contacted Hastings Borough Council Housing and worked with them to provide evidence and witnesses as part of their prosecution of Mr Wallace.

The Service also immediately installed interim smoke detection and reduced the risk of fire, so that those living there were safe and didn’t have to be moved to a new home.

“Responsible person”

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to:
•    Non-domestic premises
•    all workplaces and commercial premises
•    all premises open to the public
•    the common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings

Read guidance for landlords and managers who manage a "House of Multiple Occupancy": 

You’re responsible for fire safety if you’re:
•    an employer
•    the owner
•    the landlord
•    an occupier
•    anyone else with control of the premises, eg a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor

You have the following responsibilities:
•    carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly
•    inform staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified  
•    put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures
•    plan for an emergency
•    provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training

Find out more at www.esfrs.org/business


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