Maintain fire safety or risk prosecution


Release date: 25 November 2020

A resident had to be rescued from a fire after their landlord failed to ensure they had a working fire alarm system in the property.

Landlords have a legal duty to maintain a working fire alarm system to ensure it offers the earliest warning when a fire breaks out.

Now West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is reminding landlords and business owners of the importance of maintaining good fire safety standards, following two successful prosecutions for fire safety breaches in the last week.

In the first of two prosecutions held at Crawley Magistrates Court on Thursday, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service successfully brought a prosecution against Alan Poate, 81, of Maxwell Road, Arundel, after he pleaded guilty to seven charges of breaching the Fire Safety Order 2005.

Poate was the landlord of a home of multiple occupancy (HMO) in Littlehampton that was involved in a fire in June 2019. One of the residents had to be rescued from a ground floor room by firefighters from Littlehampton Fire Station after the fire broke out. It was subsequently found that there was no working fire alarm system in the property along with numerous other fire safety breaches throughout the building, and no Fire Risk Assessment had been conducted to address the hazards and risks within the property.

On Thursday he was sentenced and fined £507, along with a victim surcharge of £51 and ordered to pay prosecutions costs of £1923.  

In the second case heard at Crawley Magistrates Court on Thursday, Feng Jiang Chui, 53, of Spencer Road, Horsham, pleaded guilty to seven breaches of the Fire Regulation Order 2005 relating to a take-away business he operated. WSFRS’s Fire Safety Enforcement officers discovered numerous breaches of the Order at Mandarin House in November 2019.

Officers found he had no working fire alarm system and inadequate means of escape from the sleeping accommodation on the first floor of the property. They also found a failure to take general fire precautions, with unsafe and dangerous overloading of the electrical system evident.

Due to the severity of the breaches, they imposed a prohibition notice preventing use of the premises until the breaches were satisfactorily rectified. He was fined £1,080, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £108 and prosecution costs of £1801.

Andy Parsons, WSFRS’s Fire Safety Enforcement Manager, said: “We are fully committed to keeping the communities of West Sussex safe. Inadequate fire safety measures in properties, be that businesses or HMOs are simply not acceptable. We expect landlords to put the safety of their tenants first.

“We will continue to work towards ensuring that both businesses and landlords keep their properties in good condition and adhere to fire safety regulations.

“Evidence of failing the public and residents’ safety in this way will lead to prosecutions.”

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