Merton property owner fined for risking lives

House owner fined £6000 for breaking order to protect tenants from fire

A Merton property owner was fined £6000 at Wimbledon Magistrates Court last month for allowing the top floor of a house to be used as living quarters, after the Council deemed it unsafe.

Merton Council served a closing order on the owner of the large three-storey property, which was converted into bed-sits and self-contained flats, in December 1998. The property was occupied by tenants and members of the owner?s family but did not have a protected means of escape or an alarm system able to protect the occupiers in the event of a fire.

The owner was originally served with a notice requiring fire protection works to be undertaken, but failed to undertake the work. The Council subsequently served a closing order prohibiting the use of the top floor flat.

However, further inspections carried out by Merton Council?s Environmental Health Department in May 2001 and August 2001 revealed the owner was breaking the order, as the top floor was still occupied on both visits.

Wimbledon Magistrates Court found the owner guilty of breaching the closing order on two occasions and was fined £3000 for each offence. The Councils full costs were awarded in the sum of £1671.23.

Merton Council?s Environmental Health Manager, Mike Barrett, said: ?We are delighted with the successful prosecution and hope the fine imposed will encourage landlords to ensure they take their obligations and responsibilities as property owners seriously.?

The barrister acting for Merton Council pointed out the importance of protecting tenants living in such properties as the risk of fire is greatly increased in multi-occupied properties. The Court took a dim view that the owner had put the lives of the tenants at risk and had failed to take any measures to protect them in the event of a fire.