A LANDLORD has been fined £20,000 for not testing fire alarms in a block of flats where a major blaze broke out. Two people were left trapped upstairs during the fire, weeks after the landlord was told the alarm did not work.
The three-storey Victorian house in Worthing, which was split into flats, caught fire on May 14 last year. Firefighters rescued two people trapped in the burning building. Both escaped without major injury, though one man was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
Former landlord Terry Millis, 63, admitted he put the lives of five residents at risk and pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to comply with requirements to prevent the risk of fire.
He was said to have failed to ensure the premises and facilities, equipment and devices complied with the Fire Safety Order, were maintained and in good repair, which left residents at risk of death or serious injury in case of a fire.
At Brighton Magistrates’ Court last week, Millis was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £1,743.47 costs to West Sussex County Council.
District Judge Tessa Szagun said Millis, of Sompting, had a “high level” of culpability and fined him for “failures” in the lead up to the fire.
She said: “The purpose of sentencing in this type of case is to protect the safety of individuals living in such premises by ensuring that there is no financial gain by any person cutting corners. There is also a necessity to deter others from doing so.”
Millis had contacted a company to repair the fire alarm two months before the fire, but the work had not been done.
Michael Stoneham, prosecuting, said: “A resident explained she had lived in the property for four years and had never heard the fire alarm sound. The failures to have the fire regulations in place resulted in the lives of the residents being in danger.
“Mr Millis was aware that the alarm wasn’t working and the danger that the residents were at risk of.
“Several of the smoke detectors had the manufacturer’s dust covers still on them, rendering them non-responsive to smoke.”
The court heard last year’s fire was spreading towards the loft and two people were trapped on the second floor due to the stairs being smoke logged. The blaze was caused by cooking being left unattended.
Chris Chatterton, defending, said Millis checked the alarms every month in the daytime. He said: “That would explain why there were no alarm tests heard by residents. The fire itself is through no fault of Mr Millis.”