The landlord received suspended sentences for four offences in a case that highlighted the problems of an unsuitable building being used as housing. These offences took place in 2010 after police asked the London Fire Brigade to carry out an inspection of the Tavern, in the Town pub in North London.
The inspectors found that there was no fire detection system and inadequate means of escape, so they issued a prohibition notice preventing the pub being used for sleeping accommodation.
Later that year inspectors returned to find tenants living in the former pub, in breach of the prohibition notice. The building manager and the building’s landlord denied knowledge of people using the building as accommodation or of the notice prohibiting it.
The building manager was last year given a conditional discharge for a single offence of breaching a prohibition notice, while the landlord was given a custodial sentence. He received a six-month sentence, suspended for two years for each of the following offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005:
- Failure to provide a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
- Having inadequate fire detection and alarms
- Failure to protect the means of escape and lack of emergency lighting
He was also sentenced to nine months for breaching the prohibition notice, also suspended for two years.
This should be seen as a warning to building owners who are allowing tenants to use their properties without proper fire safety procedures.
In overcrowded cities where rent is high there is an increasing problem of illegal housing, including so-called “beds in sheds”, which have become prevalent in the suburbs of London. The Fire Service says that riskier ways of cooking, heating, and lighting are more common in illegal housing such as this.
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