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HMO had raft of fire safety failings

22 June 2018

A MANAGING Agent who failed to maintain a fire alarm system in a four-storey House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) has been ordered to pay fines and costs totaling nearly £25,000.

Martyn Russell appeared before Reading Magistrates’ Court to face 31 charges on 25th May 2018. The court heard that officers from the council’s Private Sector Housing Team inspected the HMO in Russell Street, west Reading, following reports of disrepair in August 2017.

They found the main fire alarm system was not working, leaving the tenants with inadequate early warning of any fire. Other examples of disrepair included obstructed hallways, inadequate fire doors, damage to the fabric of the building, fire extinguishers not being maintained in working order, damaged electrical fittings, damage to an external door and an overgrown yard.

Despite requests to have the fire alarm system reinstated urgently, this was not done until three months later. Both Russell, 63, and his company Martyn Russell Property Services Ltd were charged with the same 31 offences under the Housing Act 2004, for failing to comply with the Licensing and Management of HMOs (Additional Provisions) Regulations 2007.

Mr Russell admitted all 31 charges and the company, of which he is sole director, was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £936. Russell received fines totalling £7,500 plus costs of £445.

The Magistrates considered the offences to be very serious, especially in relation to the fire risks and obstruction of the fire escape route, which was reflected in the sentencing.

Reading Borough Council lead councillor for housing John Ennis, said: “There is no excuse for anyone responsible for a House in Multiple Occupation to have a fire alarm in place which is not working. There is even less excuse for that person to ignore repeated requests to fix the problem urgently.

“This appears to show a complete disregard for the safety of the tenants of this four-storey building, not to mention the shoddy condition of other parts of the property.

“A majority of landlords and agents in the private rented sector in Reading are responsible and law abiding but it is reassuring to know the Council is there to tackle the minority who disregard the rules.”