Prosecution sends serious message to landlords

10 July 2014

The managing director of a student housing company has been sentenced following a prosecution by Northamptonshire County Council’s fire and rescue service (Weds 9th July).

About the prosecution

Jason Berrington, managing director of Student Housing Northamptonshire Ltd (SHN), failed to take the correct fire precautions in three Northampton properties: 12 North Hayes Court, 36 Derngate and 59 Holly Road.

Following information received in early 2012, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service investigated the three premises in Northampton, all of which were occupied as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) as defined within sections 254-259 of the Housing Act 2004.

At Northampton Crown Court on (28th May 2014) Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service successfully prosecuted Berrington. He pleaded guilty to failure to take general fire precautions at all three properties, failure to comply with an enforcement notice at 12 North Hayes court and a breach of a prohibition notice at 36 Derngate.

At Northampton Crown Court yesterday (9th July 2014) Berrington received the following:

  • Six months imprisonment (suspended for twelve months).
  • 150 hours of unpaid work to be completed within twelve months.
  • £750 of fire service costs to be paid within twelve months.
  • £100 victims surcharge.

Chief Fire Officer Martyn Emberson said "This case clearly demonstrates how seriously fire safety breaches are viewed by the courts. I hope it sends a clear message out to landlords and managing agents across Northamptonshire. Responsible Persons need to act responsibly.

“We proactively look for suspected HMOs because we know these are the highest risk premises, housing vulnerable people who are being exploited by landlords who won’t fit fire doors or fire alarm systems. These simple precautions are affordable and would save the lives of their tenants should a fire occur.

“Where we find systematic non-compliance or a severe breach putting lives at risk we will take enforcement action and in the serious cases we will prosecute those responsible.”

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection said: “I am very pleased that this action has been taken and I would like to recognise the efforts of our Fire Protection Officers in gathering evidence and preparing the case for court.

“It demonstrates that we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against these types of individuals, who are selfishly putting people’s lives at risk.”

Background

Failure to carry out general fire precautions means they failed to carry out a fire risk assessment, failed to ensure the installation of an appropriate fire detection and warning system, failed to install fire doors, failed to ensure that persons within the premises were able to evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible and failed to ensure that emergency doors were not locked or fastened so as to prevent their easy and immediate use in the case of an emergency.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to nearly all premises, with the exception of single private dwellings. In HMOs, it applies to the common parts of the building, where the "Responsible Person" must ensure adequate fire safety standards and arrangements through a process of fire risk assessment.

Information about fire safety standards required for HMOs is available on the government website.

For further information contact Community Protection Manager Group Manager Baz Fox bfox@northantsfire.org.uk 01604 797155

Ends


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