A BROKEN fire alarm, blocked escape routes and a hole in the ceiling have earned two Rugby landlords a £1,800 fine.
David Frew, of Speedwell Close, Brownsover, and his wife Sally were renting out a four-storey terraced house in multiple occupation (HMO) in Park Road in August 2014 when Rugby Borough Council’s housing enforcement team received a tip-off it was unlicensed despite being home to seven tenants.
The team contacted the couple who then submitted an application for an HMO licence the following month.
But before issuing the licence, a housing enforcement officer inspected the property and discovered a number of safety issues, including fire doors in need of repair, blocked escape routes, no hot water and a faulty fire alarm system.
Mr and Mrs Frew were issued with a list of repairs and improvements, and the satisfactory completion of the work was a condition of the HMO licence when it was issued to the couple in November 2014.
In January, after the couple had failed to prove the work had been done by the agreed deadline, another inspection was arranged – but neither Mr or Mrs Frew were at the property when the officer arrived.
After a tenant let the officer in, the fire alarm was again found to be faulty, fire doors remained in a state of disrepair and there was a large hole in the kitchen ceiling, through which water was dripping on to work surfaces.
When contacted, Mr Frew claimed the fire alarm had been working three days before the inspection and a contractor had been instructed to carry out the necessary improvements and repairs.
But when further deadlines passed in February and March without the couple producing all of the necessary documents, an inspection of the property was carried out unannounced on March 26.
The hole in the kitchen ceiling, fire doors and cracked windows remained unrepaired, and a door leading to an en suite bathroom was hanging off its hinges.
The council prosecuted Mr and Mrs Frew on the basis the couple were both HMO licence holders and managers of the property.
However, Mrs Frew was unable to attend the hearing at Nuneaton’s Warwickshire Justice Centre on Monday 5 October due to ill health, and it was agreed her husband could plead to the charges on his own.
Mr Frew pleaded guilty to six offences under the Housing Act 2004.
In mitigation, the court was told 44-year-old Mr Frew took full responsibility for the problems at the property and the improvements and repairs had now been completed.
Mr Frew’s solicitor said the repair work was delayed due to a builder’s ill health and added the couple were experiencing serious financial problems.
Magistrates fined Mr Frew £300 for each offence – a total of £1,800 – and ordered him to pay £500 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
Speaking after the hearing, Coun Leigh Hunt, Rugby Borough Council’s communities spokeswoman, said: “Landlords have a responsibility to put the health and safety of tenants first, and the council has a duty to enforce HMO regulations to ensure tenants can live in safe and secure accommodation.
“Our housing enforcement team offers landlords support and advice to make sure all Rugby’s HMOs comply with legislation, but when our advice goes unheeded and rogue landlords put profit before public safety, we have no hesitation in taking the individuals concerned to court.”
Email [email protected] or call (01788) 533882 to contact the council’s housing enforcement team.