Failure to fit smoke alarms costs Walthamstow lettings agent £10,000

Monday, September 10th, 2018 - Waltham Forest Council

A Walthamstow-based residential lettings agency has been fined £10,000 for failing to fit smoke alarms at a rented property in a landmark case for the rights of private tenants.

Just Move Estates of Hoe Street E17 had claimed that tenants removed the smoke alarms at the property on Melford Road, Leyton. However, inspectors found no evidence that they had ever been installed at the address.

The property was licensed under Waltham Forest Council’s selective licensing scheme which applies to all private rented homes in the borough. On the licence application, the agent had stated there were three smoke alarms in the house although when officers inspected the property in February 2018 they found there were none whatsoever.

The council issued the agency with a civil penalty for breach of the selective licence conditions. Just Move Estates appealed against the penalty but subsequently withdrew their appeal and agreed to pay £10,000 plus legal costs of £750.00.

Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing at Waltham Forest Council said:

I’m genuinely shocked that an experienced lettings agent like Just Move Estates thought they might get away with this. As an established agency, trusted by landlords and tenants alike, they really should know better. We would very much expect this hefty fine will help them to remember their obligations.

Smoke alarms save lives day in, day out. Quite apart from the fact that it is a legal requirement for landlords to ensure they are present, they are inexpensive and easy to fit. It’s so little effort to prevent a tragedy.

Waltham Forest Council was one of the first in the country to adopt the powers contained in the Housing & Planning Act (2016) to issue civil penalties for various housing offences including failing to apply for a licence or breaching licence conditions. The legislation also allows the council to seek Rent Repayment Orders in serious cases.

London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner Al Perez said:

Any landlord who fails to fit smoke alarms is not only breaking the law but needlessly putting tenants’ lives at risks.

We welcome this result for Waltham Forest Council, which is one of the first councils in London to take action against a landlord for failing to fit smoke alarms in a rented property under the Housing and Planning Act (2016) and we hope this will act as a wake-up call to all landlords that under this legislation it is your responsibility to install measures to keep residents safe from fire.

It’s absolutely vital to have working smoke alarms fitted on every level of your home. We would also urge everyone to make sure they have one fitted in every room where a fire can start except kitchens or bathrooms where heat alarms are more appropriate.

They give the earliest warning possible when there’s a fire and there’s no excuse for landlords not to fit them.

Government research shows that you are four times more likely to die in a fire in a property that does not have a working smoke alarm.

A free guide to the property licensing rules in the London Borogh of Waltham Forest can be found here.

For all the latest news and events, you can sign up for the free London Property Licensing newsletter here.