£10,000 fines for fire-trap house

Law gavel

The unlicensed landlord of a students’ house which posed a serious fire risk has been fined a total of £10,000.

Michael Hiett, aged 41, of Orrell Road, Wigan, pleaded guilty at Liverpool Magistrates Court to operating a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) without a licence and eight other offences relating to the safety of the property.

The court heard that in May this year, following a complaint from a tenant, Environmental Health Officers visited a three-storey, six-bedroomed house  Brookdale Road, Wavertree.  It was occupied by six students sharing a bathroom, kitchen and lounge.

It was not licensed although this was a legal requirement. 

An inspection of the property found that the front and back doors along with the bedroom doors were fitted with unsuitable key-operated locks which were fire hazards as they could prevent the swift evacuation of the building in the event of a fire. Neither the gas boiler and nor any of the electrical equipment had been checked for safety and the low height of the balustrade on the second floor was such that it posed a serious risk of persons falling from height.

Hiett told the court that the house had originally been the family home but when they had grown out of it and moved in 2004 he rented it out to students.  He said he had fallen into being a landlord and had not known that the property required a licence.

District Judge Wynn Jones stated that he found it difficult to believe that Hiett had operated a HMO for so long without realising it needed a licence.  He said that the state of the property caused concern as it did not meet even the minimum standards of safety required and the potential for significant harm was extremely high as it was very likely that in the event of a fire the students would not escape.

Hiett was fined £6,000 for operating the property without a licence and £500 on each of eight breaches of safety regulations and ordered to pay £825 costs

Councillor Ann O’Byrne, cabinet member for housing said: ” This sentence sends a strong message to landlords who provide student accommodation that they have a great responsibility to ensure the property they rent out is safe and the council with take all the steps necessary to bring those who don’t to justice”