Home BLA Scotland Rogue landlord behind student fire death flat banned from renting out properties

Rogue landlord behind student fire death flat banned from renting out properties

THE father of a student who died in a fire which broke out in a “death-trap” flat has spoken of his horror at learning the landlord responsible had resumed renting out properties.

Sandy Fraser’s son James perished alongside his friend Daniel Heron when they became trapped inside a basement flat owned by Harpal Singh when a fire gutted the property in March 1999.

Mr Singh, who was jailed for 30 months for perjury after he lied during an inquiry into the deaths, was yesterday barred from being a landlord following an investigation by Glasgow City Council.

The 64-year-old was found to be unfit to act as a landlord after it was revealed he was in control of a 14-property portfolio despite being not holding a licence.

Council officers found the flats lacked basic fire safety measures, and six were placed under closure orders.

An inquiry into the deaths of 20-year-olds James Fraser and Daniel Heron heard that the basement flat in Melrose Street, Woodlands, had metal bars over the windows which prevented the occupants from escaping.

James’ mother Lucy also told of how her son died only hours after he phoned to ask her to bring smoke alarms to the basement flat at Melrose Street, Woodlands, Glasgow.

Mr Fraser, of Balmaha, Stirlingshire, said it was clear that Mr Singh had learned nothing from his James’ death.

He said: “On the basis Harpal Singh is back out of prison and does not seemed to have learned anything about the tragedy in 1999, I am horrified.

“We hoped after James and Daniel’s accident that he would have changed his ways, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“People from rural areas should be able to send their children to the city and know they’re as safe as they can be.”

Mr Fraser added that the family have struggled to come to terms with James’ death, and that he remains in their thoughts “every day”.

He said: “After an accident like that, you lose your son, you have to just get on with life. We have various businesses that we’ve been working hard on.

“But without a shadow of a doubt, there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about James and what he’d be doing. I speak for his mother, brothers and sisters there as well.

“We have to move forward and I hope the city is a better place now for the incident.”

Glasgow City Council had been building a case against Mr Singh since he applied to become a landlord again five years ago.

A catalogue of potentially life-threatening defects was uncovered by inspectors during a visit to the rogue landlord’s various properties in November last year.

Problems included a lack of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, damaged floors, damp, windows which do not open, a leaking boiler, no window vents and cracked windows.

Mr Singh now possibly faces a £50,000 fine for acting as an unlicensed landlord, and has also been ordered to pay a £150,000 council tax bill.

During a hearing to discuss his licence application, Councillors became exasperated with the businessman’s evasive answers to questions on the safety of his properties, after he claimed to know nothing of the dangers uncovered by officers.

Bailie John Kane, chairman of the committee, said: “You are saying that you visit your properties every day, but you do not see the problems our officers pick up on?

“The legislation that is in place and how it is operated in Glasgow is all about ensuring people are safe in their homes.

“There are rules and you have a pattern of totally and utterly disregarding those rules.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Officers from the Landlord Registration Unit have worked extremely hard to gather the evidence that has led to this decision.”

He added: “We are pleased that the members of the committee found that the applicant is not a fit and proper person to be a landlord.”

BLA Scotland

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