Liverpool letting agent fined for fire safety breaches

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One of Liverpool’s largest letting agencies has been hit with a hefty fine after failing to provide adequate fire safety measures at a city student home.

Taylor and Aitchison Ltd, which trades as Whitegates Letting and Estate Agents, admitted breaching the conditions of their Landlord Licence in a prosecution brought by Liverpool City Council.

Liverpool’s Magistrates’ Court heard that officers with the city council’s Landlord Licensing Team inspected the student property on Taylforth Close, Walton, in January of this year.

The inspection revealed that the home had a broken smoke alarm. A second device installed in the property was found to be a heat detector, which had been fitted in error by a Whitegates employee.

The court heard that the defects and errors meant that the property was without sufficient fire safety measures for a substantial period. The court was told that the tenant had raised concerns about the defective smoke alarm a several times but no action was taken by Whitegates until after the city council inspection.

At the sentencing hearing, District Judge Wendy Lloyd described fire safety as a ‘serious issue’ and added that the company’s actions “did not fill the public with confidence”.

Judge Lloyd went on to describe the vulnerable nature of the student tenant as an aggravating feature and told representatives of Whitegates that the company had “let itself down”.

Whitegates, which has branches in Walton Vale, West Derby and Woolton, has since rectified the defects. The court heard how it now employs an external company to inspect and maintain its properties in a bid to ensure that the same mistakes never happen again.

Whitegates was fined £1,400, with £707.28 in costs and a victim surcharge of £140.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We are working hard to create a well-managed private rented sector in Liverpool, and this case shows what we are up against.

“When we are having to take enforcement action against some of the biggest players in the sector there is clearly more work to do. People have the right to be protected in their own homes, which is one of the reasons we introduced the Landlord Licensing Scheme. We shall continue to robustly enforce the scheme and this case shows that we will take tough action against anyone who does not adhere to the rules.”

The Landlord Licensing scheme was introduced in 2015 to drive up standards in the city’s private rented sector. The scheme means that anyone who lets a property must apply for a licence with the city council.

To date, the city council has granted more than 52,000 licences and there are currently nearly 10,000 licence holders in the city.

The Landlord Licensing team has conduction more than 30,000 inspections and identified more than 10,000 breaches in the conditions of the licences.

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Lynnie Hinnigan, added: “The Landlord Licensing Scheme has been extremely successful, which is a testament to the hard work of all the officers involved. The team’s proactive approach has had a national impact and the scheme is leading the way in raising standards in the private rented sector. Once again this case shows how committed we are to ensuring the safety of tenants in Liverpool.”

  • photo shows the student home in Walton where the faulty smoke alarm was found by council officers.