13 May, 2010
It has been reported that a landlord has been jailed for two and a half years following a fire at a property which left a tenant with such serious injuries that her prospects for recovery were stated at one per cent.
Following charges of breaching health and safety, gas safety and fire safety laws brought by both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, the landlord Michael Billings was sentenced by Norwich Crown Court to the prison term and was ordered to pay costs of £20,000.
The court heard that the landlord had not fitted the flat with a working fire alarm system, had not installed the correct number of fire doors, had not provided adequate means of escape from the property and had not had the gas appliances serviced or properly inspected.
It was said that a fire broke out at the flat in April 2009 and the tenant was unable to escape. Firefighters reported that the temperature reached around 600 degrees Celsius and that the tenant's body was horrifically burnt. The firefighter who carried the tenant down the ladder said that her body was so hot, his arms were beginning to burn through his tunic.
The tenant suffered 80 per cent deep tissue burns and is said to require further treatment in the future.
All providers of housing are under a legal duty to arrange maintenance of all gas pipe work, appliances and flues which are used by tenants by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Landlords also must arrange for an annual gas safety check to be carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. When such a check is carried out, a record of the inspection must be held for two years and a copy must be provided to each tenant within 28 days of the check being completed. A copy must also be issued before a new tenant moves into a property.
From April 2009, the Capita Gas Safe Register has been the only gas installer registration scheme approved by the HSE under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, thus replacing the previous CORGI registration. All installers (including those used by landlords) wanting to undertake domestic gas work will need to be registered with the Gas Safe scheme in order to be able to lawfully carry out any work on both gas fittings and appliances in a property.
Cases such as this highlight the dangers that can be faced if a landlord does not comply with all their legal obligations. It is vital that landlords comply with these duties in order to protect their tenants from serious injury. Failure to do so could lead to a prosecution and potentially a fine or prison sentence.