Watford Landlord Fined After Fire In 'Death Trap' House

An investigation following a fire in Watford last year has found the landlord failed to take proper safety measures to keep his tenants safe.

The five-bedroom property was being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO), with seven people living in it at the time of the fire.

Watford Borough Council officers found a staggering number of safety issues with the property, which made it entirely unfit for multiple occupation:

"    no fire doors were fitted
"    there was only one battery powered smoke detector present in the entire property - this was in the hallway on the ground floor
"    no emergency lighting
"    locks could only be operated with a key - providing no escape route in the event of a fire

The safety of the tenants was put at risk even further by the heating arrangements. Despite it being the depths of winter, the central heating system was kept in a locked cupboard and could only be controlled by the landlord. It was set to operate for one hour a day, leading to the use of unsafe portable electric heaters.

Watford Borough Council Environmental Health Officer Sam Richards led the investigation: "This property was a potential death-trap and such reckless negligence by landlords will not be tolerated. It was lucky that this time no one was injured but it could have been a very different story. We want to prevent situations like this and we can offer advice and support to landlords to help improve their properties."

On Monday 15 December 2014, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) was called to a fire at Mr Khalil Ur-Rehman's property on Lea Road, Watford. After investigating, HFRS, which works closely with Watford Borough Council in the community safety team, raised concerns to Environmental Health.

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Station Commander Jon Horastead added: "This is one of the worst cases I've seen. No safety regulations had been followed and if the fire had taken place at night instead of the afternoon, it could have led to fatalities. The fire started in one of the bedrooms - if a fire door was in place the fire probably would have been restricted to this room. We are proactively working with Environmental Health to stamp out sub-standard HMOs in Watford."

Mr Khalil Ur-Rehman pleaded guilty to the offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. He was fined a total of £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £5,673.27, plus a £120 victim surcharge. His insurance did not cover HMOs and so was made void.

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