Fines and prosecutions Letting company fined over fire defects

SALOP LETS Limited pleaded guilty to 24 offences under the Housing Act 2004, after a range of fire safety defects were found in three of its houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Shropshire Live reported on

the prosecution of the company, based in Telford, over a ‘string of defects’ at three privately rented properties in the town. The three licensed HMOs were based on Hurleybrook Way in Leegomery, and an environmental health officer from Telford and Wrekin Council – alongside a fire safety officer from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) – inspected all three after a complaint received in February.

Upon inspection, a range

of fire safety and other defects were found, including the fact that fire alarms and emergency lighting systems ‘connected to the pre-paid metered electricity supply’ did not work when money ran out in the meters. In addition, ‘defective and damaged’ fire doors were found throughout all three properties, alongside broken showers, damaged kitchen units and broken or missing lighting units. Finally, there was ‘incomplete and missing’ safety certification in relation to the fire alarm systems, as well as the fixed electrical wiring.

The company was served

with improvement notices to make sure the properties were ‘brought up to the required standard’, but the work was ‘either done to a poor standard or not at all’, and included the installation of ‘what was said to be’ a new fire door, which was actually ‘found to be second-hand’. On three occasions, the

company was invited to an interview regarding conditions and its failure to comply with the improvement notices, and ‘each time, the company declined’. Salop Lets Limited houses

vulnerable adult tenants, and at court it was reported that the company had ‘earlier tried to blame the problems with the houses on its tenants’. Since 2015, housing benefit of around £1.5 million had been paid in respect of properties which were managed by the company. At court, prosecutor Sarah

Morgan said: ‘Very little work was done during the operation of the improvement notices. I would draw your attention to the past history [of the company] and consider that they were cost cutting with a view to profit.’ She added: ‘They were a

professional management company. 16 FEBRUARY 2019

They chose to house vulnerable tenants but failed to manage the risks associated with this.’ Salop Lets Limited pleaded

guilty to 24 offences under the Housing Act 2004, and was sentenced at Telford Magistrates Court. It received a fine of £31,500 and was ordered to pay costs of £11,462 alongside a court surcharge of £170, for a total of over £43,000. It was said that the company did ‘little or nothing to put right’ the defects.

District judge Rebecca Crane said that it had ‘fallen far short of the housing standards expected’ and ‘ignored concerns raised’. She added that there was a ‘risk of death or life changing injury from the company’s failure to maintain fire alarms and fire doors’. Commenting on the case,

Richard Overton, the cabinet member for housing and enforcement at the council, said: ‘The safety of our residents is of paramount importance. That is why we are working hard to make sure that private rented housing is safe for tenants to live in. Earlier this year we set up the rogue landlord taskforce as part of our “Better Homes For All” package to improve housing in the private rented sector. This case highlights the vital work of this taskforce in keeping people safe.’

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