Hounslow landlady hit with £160,000 fine after fatal house blaze

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 -

A landlady has been fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 prosecution costs for breaking fire safety laws following a fatal fire in one of the Hounslow properties she rented out.

Following a trial lasting more than two weeks, a jury found Mrs Surinder Rana guilty of four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and she was sentenced on Friday 1 May 2015 at Kingston Crown Court.

The fire had occurred shortly after 5am on 8 August 2011 at a house in multiple occupation (HMO) containing 10 people in Cromwell Road. Four fire engines and 20 fire fighters were called to tackle the blaze that affected the ground floor, first floor and loft.

A number of people managed to escape the first floor of the property but one of the residents, Mr Sukhi Singh, was found in the heavily smoke logged kitchen on the ground floor. He was taken to hospital where he died shortly afterwards.

London Fire Brigade fire safety inspectors visited the house the same day and found a number of fire safety breaches including:

  • that it wasn’t possible for people to evacuate the premises quickly and safely;
  • no fire detectors or smoke alarms;
  • no fire fighting equipment; and
  • that no proper fire risk assessment was in place for the property.

Following the inspection of the property and the neighbouring house, also owned by Mrs Rana and used as an HMO, the Brigade issued a prohibition notice preventing their use as residential accommodation until they had been fitted with suitable fire separation, adequate fire detection and emergency lighting.

Speaking after the sentencing London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Neil Orbell said: “Landlords have a responsibility to keep their tenants safe from fire and if they are ignoring those responsibilities and putting the people living in their properties at risk we will not hesitate to prosecute.

The sentence handed down to Mrs Rana is a stark reminder to landlords that the court’s take fire safety as seriously as we do and that the penalties for ignoring it are severe.

The four offences for which Mrs Rana was sentenced were:

  • Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk, contrary to articles 9(1) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work (concurrent);
  • Failure to appropriately equip premises with fire detection, contrary to articles 13(1)(a) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work (concurrent);
  • Failure to appropriately equip premises with fire fighting equipment, contrary to articles 13(1)(a) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work (concurrent); and
  • Failure to ensure that persons can evacuate premises as quickly and safely as possible, contrary to articles 14(2)(b) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work (concurrent).

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers or those who have control over a premises (known as the ‘responsible person’) are required to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings. The risk assessment should also identify actions that need to be taken in order to protect the building from fire. It must be kept under constant review and amended if any changes are made to the premises.

A copy of the LACORS guide to fire safety in residential accommodation, which includes more information about fire risk assessments and fire safety precautions in rented accommodation, can be found here.

Editors Note

Photos reproduced with kind permission from London Fire Brigade and cannot be reused without their consent.