London Fire Brigade

Landlady hit with £160,000 fire safety fine after fatal house blaze

01 May 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.

Surinder Rana was found guilty of four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and was sentenced on Friday (1 May) at Kingston Crown Court.

The fire occurred shortly after 5am, on 8, August 2011 at 41 Cromwell Road, which was a house in multiple occupation (HMO) containing 10 people. Four fire engines and 20 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze which 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 firefighting equipment
• 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.”
Ends

Notes to editors

• At her trial at Kingston Crown Court Mrs Rana had denied the following four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The trial lasted more than two weeks and on 23 March a jury found her guilty of all four offences.

Offences and sentences:

  1. Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk, contrary to articles 9(1) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work (concurrent)
  2. Failure to appropriately equip premises with fire detection, contrary to articles 13(1)(a) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work (concurrent)
  3. Failure to appropriately equip premises with fire fighting equipment, contrary to articles 13(1)(a) £40,000 fine; 200 hours unpaid work(concurrent)
  4. 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 which 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.

• London Fire Brigade carries out around 16,000 fire inspections of premises each year and although the majority of buildings are managed well in regard to fire, there are still too many buildings that do not have an adequate fire risk assessment and as a result have fire exits blocked, inadequate fire alarms or poor training for staff. The Brigade can and does prosecute companies or individuals if there are breaches to fire legislation and though court action is a last resort, recent cases show that the courts will issue fines or even consider prison sentences for serious cases.

The fire safety breaches were not alleged to have caused the death of the deceased.  Breaches of fire safety are measured by the risk of death or serious injury to relevant persons at the premises.