A landlord has been hit with a £72,000 fine after admitting a catalogue of safety breaches which firefighters said had put people’s lives at risk.
Experienced landlord Stuart De’Ath put his tenants lives in danger and showed a “flagrant disregard” for fire regulations, a court heard.
And today, after he was handed the massive fine, fire service bosses told The Gazette the punishment was a “clear message” they would not stand for such breaches.
A court heard De’Ath admit a string of regulation breaches relating to three properties in St Annes.
The fire extinguishers were either broken or out of date, there were no fire detectors or alarms and exit pathways were blocked. There was also no emergency lighting.
Warren Spencer, prosecuting for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, told Blackpool Magistrates’ Court: “This defendant showed complete disregard for fire safety in three properties he owns in St Annes.
The fire safety in these three properties was so poor it was almost non-existent.Warren Spencer, prosecuting
“He failed to carry out his duties regarding fire safety. He is an experienced and professional landlord but these were high risk premises where the lives of tenants were at risk.
“There were fire extinguishers on the premises but they had not been inspected for 10 years.”
De’Ath was ordered to pay £72,000 in fines, £8,750 prosecution cost £120 victims’ surcharge.
Mr Spencer said De’Ath, 60, of St George’s Square, St Annes, had had a reminder of what he needed to do to keep residents safe when in 2011 Fylde Council told him how he needed to make a property in Agnew Street, Lytham, safe.
He did the work but failed to implement the same requirements at properties on St Annes Road East, Beach Road, St Annes and St George’s Square, the court heard.
Mr Spencer told the court that a fire officer had driven past the property on St Annes Road East and noticed timber stacked up against the facia of the house.
Recognising this as a fire risk he said the timber should be removed when he contacted De’Ath.
This led to fire service inspections of all his properties. As a result of the breaches in fire safety regulations an official notice was served on De’Ath and his tenants were moved out until remedial work was done.
The prosecutor said: “The fire safety in these three properties was so poor it was almost non-existent.
“Escape routes were not marked and in one a boiler blocked the way.
“Had there been a fire in one flat other residents would not have known because there were no alarms. There was also no emergency lighting and combustible materials were left in areas where it should not have been left.
“The question is whether he put profit before safety.
“When fire officers started to interview him before one of the inspections De’Ath told them – you won’t find any fire alarms in here.”
De’Ath pleaded guilty to 18 offences brought under the fire safety regulations.
Each offence carries a £5,000 maximum fine.
Michael Woosnam, defending, said that as soon as the prohibition notices were served on the properties his client started work on them which was carried out satisfactorily within three weeks.|
He said that the 20 tenants of the flats had returned to their properties and had not moved elsewhere.
“My client has had letters of thanks from previous tenants. His own home address is one of the properties which has been the subject of this investigation.
“He is very remorseful to his tenants and remorseful towards his own family.
“Had the bells rung about what happened at Agnew Street he should have taken steps to protect himself and his own family but they didn’t.
“He is now being proactive rather than reactive.
“He has put things right and this won’t happen again.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We would hope that the outcome of this particular case sends a clear message that fire safety is a priority issue that should always be addressed before tenants or guests are accommodated.”