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Bedfordshire landlord prosecuted over non-compliance with Fire Safety Order

04 April 2022

“MULTIPLE AND repeated breaches” of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at the Broadway House multi-storey office block in Bedford have realised fines totalling £40,000 in the wake of a hearing conducted at Luton Magistrates’ Court.

As part of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s risk-based inspection programme conducted under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Broadway House was audited back in June 2019 by fire safety officers. The audit identified a range of fire safety deficiencies.

The building’s owner and landlord (namely Mrs J Lusty) and Mr D Lusty (the ‘Responsible Person’ for fire safety matters) were sent a notice of deficiencies letter that same month and given two months’ notice to rectify the issues.

Mr Lusty indicated that he would address the issues, but a subsequent inspection in October 2019 failed to show any significant improvement. A further visit was undertaken by Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service fire safety officers in February 2020 and, as no action had been taken, an Enforcement Notice was served on Mrs J Lusty.

The Enforcement Notice stated that:

*the fire risk assessment had not been reviewed since December 2015

*the external fire escape was in a poor state of repair with steps missing

*numerous fire-resisting doors within the building were in a poor statement of repair

*the fire alarm system was inadequate for the risk

*there were inadequate fire exit signs and fire action notices in place

*there was no evidence that the firefighting equipment, fire alarm and emergency lighting systems had been maintained

Addressing the issues

The owner was given three months to address the issues. A follow-up inspection showed that, while new firefighting equipment had been provided, all other actions detailed in the Enforcement Notice had not been addressed.

These failings in fire safety measures placed one or more persons at risk of serious injury or death should a fire occur and, as a result, prosecution proceedings were instigated.

On 21 January this year, Mr D Lusty appeared at Luton Magistrates’ Court charged with four offences under the Fire Safety Order as follows:

*the fire risk assessment had not been reviewed since December 2015 and, as such, did not assess the risks to which relevant persons were exposed

*the fire warning system was inadequate for the premises and, as such, persons within the building would not receive a timely warning should a fire occur

*the external fire escape was in a poor state of repair with broken and missing treads that could result in injury to those having to use it

*a number of fire doors were in a poor state of repair with broken and missing locks and gaps in the doors that would allow the passage of smoke and flames, thereby affecting the ability of occupants to escape should a fire occur

Mr Lusty pleaded guilty to all offences and sentencing took place on 18 March this year. The presiding Magistrate stated that there was a history of non-compliance at the premises dating back to 2015 and mentioned that, across the past few years, fire safety has been headline news. The failure to provide adequate fire safety measures represented “a serious offence”.

A fine of £10,000 was imposed for each of the four offences. Full costs, equating to £10,525, were awarded to the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Clear message

Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer at the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, explained: “This prosecution sends out a clear message to landlords that if you do not comply with the required fire safety regulations then we are prepared to take enforcement action to keep people safe. This individual didn’t comply with the law and left their tenants at serious risk by affecting the ability of the occupants to safely escape should a fire occur.”

Hopkinson added: “It’s our role to ensure that our communities are safe. We will look to provide [fire safety] support and advice where required, but if people are put at risk, then we will not hesitate in taking further action. Several serious offences were committed by the landlord in this case. The Magistrate recognised this in his judgement and in the level of fines imposed.”