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Landlords prosecuted over unlicensed fatal fire home

03 February 2020

A judge has ordered two private landlords to pay a total of £14,858 for illegally renting out an unlicensed house without working smoke alarms to tenants whose teenage son died after it caught fire.

When fire broke out at the Matope family home in Thornton Heath on 25 March 2019, the illegally-let house did not have a Croydon Council landlord licence, which includes fire safety checks.

Firefighters attended the scene, but 13-year-old Kuzi Matope died in hospital on 2 April.

The cause of Kuzi’s death has yet to be determined at an inquest, but neither of the two smoke alarms found at the house worked.

At Croydon Magistrates’ Court on 27th January, landlords Innocent and Clementia Mukarati, of Hatherwood, Leatherhead, Surrey, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to license the property in Camden Gardens under section 95 of the Housing Act 2004.

Croydon Council brought the prosecution against Mr Mukarati, aged 50, and Mrs Mukarati, aged 47, after the fatal fire led to the discovery the couple had not applied for a licence. This has been a legal requirement for all privately-rented homes in Croydon since 2015. 

One of the scheme’s key licence conditions is the need for landlords to put in place stringent fire safety measures.

Ordering the married couple to each pay a £787.50 fine, a £78 victim surcharge and £6,563.42 in court costs, or £14,858.84 in total, District Judge Nicholas Easterman sent his condolences to the Matope family, adding that the case was about a failure to license the property and that he could not consider the fire.

He said: “Where people rent out property – whether commercial or otherwise – it is incumbent on them to find out what the regulations are.

“It is clear that the smoke alarms were not working; it is not possible to know how long for. Had the defendants known of the licensing provisions they might have been more active in the care taken over these sorts of matters. This did not have a material effect on the tragic events which unfolded.”

The council will now add the Mukaratis to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord database, and it will consider applying for them to be listed on a similar national database run by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.