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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Tenant dies in HMO fire - private landlord sentenced

A landlord has been prosecuted following the death of a tenant in a house fire at an HMO said to have had inadequate fire safety precautions.

The case was brought by Luton council, working with Bedfordshire Police and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, against landlord Bhagwent Sagoo. 

The fire broke out at the property on March 27 2019 originating in the first floor rear bedroom occupied by Evaldas Grisciukas, who died in the incident.

Another resident attempted to help the victim but that resident sustained burns, suffered smoke inhalation and was himself significantly injured.

The court heard that the premises were occupied by seven people at the time of the fire and the judge concluded that there were inadequate fire precautions. 

In particular, there were no fire doors and although some fire detection was present, it is not clear if it worked. They were not interlinked, as required by law.  

Sagoo pleaded guilty to a charge under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, relating to a failure to take general fire precautions placing persons at risk of death or serious injury in the case of fire.  

He accepted that he was the manager but said he believed the property had been let as a single tenancy.  

The judge commented that he ought to have known who was in the house and would have done, had he carried out regular inspections.

Sagoo was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with a fine of £20,000 and £12,000 costs.

A spokesman for the council says: “We are committed to keeping residents safe and inadequate fire safety in a HMO just isn’t acceptable. We expect landlords to put the safety of their tenants first and are pleased to see this sentencing handed down.

“We’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Mr Grisciukas.”

 

Following sentencing, the judge commended two other residents in the property for their bravery.

The fire protection measures required in HMOs vary depending on the layout, but generally they are required to have fire-doors to every bedroom, lounge, kitchen, and an alarm system, including interlinked detectors in bedrooms, lounges, kitchens and in the hall and landing.

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    • 26 October 2020 09:50 AM

    An HMO can be any property where there are more than 2 unrelated occupants NOT households.

    So with Additional Licensing as soon as 3 unrelated occupants are at the property the Council deems the property to be a HMO.

    Not sure what requirements there are for Additionally licensed properties
    .But if additional works are required it invariably wouldn't be worth bothering with.

    So a 3 bed property houses just 2 full time occupants with the 3rd room a wasting asset.

    So stupid licensing schemes result in fewer rooms being available.
    Makes sense!

    EverythingPRS

    A household can be a single person, a couple, or a family.
    Additional licensing requirements are ‘2 or more people, forming more than 2 households’.
    The basic principle of licensing is based on the level of fire risk that properties occupied by multiple unrelated households have shown to pose. Basically, people are less mindful of the everyday potential hazards such as ensuring cookers are turned off after use, not overloading plug sockets, & unplugging hair styling items etc etc. compared to living with family at home where people are more aware of keeping his/her family safe so are more inclined to check/switch off such items.

    That’s the logic behind it anyway.. you may disagree with this but I just wanted to mention how it was explained to me in basic terms for HHSRS training

     
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    An HMO is any property where there are 2 or more households (a household is a group of related people (a chain of relationships is OK, rather than direct so 2 brothers and their wives are one household even though there is no direct relationship between the wives)) consisting of 3 or more people.
    A mandatory licensable HMO is an HMO with 5 or more people.
    An additional licesable HMO is an HMO which meets the conditions the council set out in their notice.
    I'm ignoring section 257 HMOs in this.

    For example, Oxford's criteria are:
    With effect from the 25th January 2016 Phase 1 of the Scheme applies to:
    a) Any HMO which is comprised of three storeys and contains three or four occupiers and any HMO which is comprised of two storeys that contain five or more occupiers
    With effect from the 31st January 2017 Phase 2 of the Scheme also applies to:
    b) Any HMO which is comprised of two storeys or a single storey that contain three or four occupiers and all self-contained flats that are Houses in Multiple Occupation, irrespective of the number of storeys, but, so far as concerns section 257 Houses in Multiple Occupation, limit the designation to those that are mainly or wholly tenanted, Including those with resident landlords.

    So, if an HMO had 3 or 4 people in it, then it only requires a licence if it's 1-3 storeys. At the time this notice was issued a mandatory licence only required 5+ people and 3+ storeys. This meant a bunglaow HMO with 5 people in it didn't require a licence either.

     
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    It is crazy that you are allowed to have a family of say eight living in a four bedroomed property, but if unrelated, only two where I am.
    I have a large four bedroomed maisonette which (unless I carry out ridiculously expensive alterations) can house only two.
    Surely, the family of eight would pose a much higher fire risk than my two unrelated but partners?

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    • 26 October 2020 11:19 AM

    Ahh! You appear to have addressed my query.

    So I presume with only 4 potential unrelated occupants you would NOT need a Mandatory HMO Licence but because you are in an Additional Licensing area you need to be compliant with HMO licensing requirements which as you suggest makes your property unviable for 4 unrelated occupants

    This situation must affect property values as LL would be deterred from investing in Additional Licensing areas due to all the problems it brings.
    So for example ordinarily you could probably have 4 unrelated occupants each paying on a shared AST £600 each.
    Whereas a single family let could be half the £2400 you could receive from 4 unrelated sharing occupants.
    Bound to have an effect on property values
    Fewer LL will then invest making it difficult for tenants to source affordable accommodation.

    Councils effectively causing homelessness...........................you know it makes sense........Not!!!

     
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    Totally agree.

    I have some large 4 bed flats let to 4 students but with expensive alterations and HMO licences. The market rents for these went up about 20% overnight in 2004/5 when Glasgow City Council brought in its HMO licence for all properties with more than 2 unrelated adults, irrespective of its size.

    When I was a student around 50 years ago, the same flats had 8 to 10 students sharing. The main risks were food or alcohol poisoning or skin problems associated with unwashed sheets, bodies etc.

    Fires were pretty unheard of, even with a high number of smokers.

    Councils and young people unwilling to share rooms are the main reason for rents being so high.

     
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    John, whilst I agree with what you say partly, when you say “ridiculously expensive alterations” does the cost of fire doors, self closers & fire alarm system not pail into insignificance when you put it against a cash flow forecast of renting out the house as a four bed....of you took, for example the figures Paul used 🤔🤷🏻‍♂️

     
    Susanna Bora

    Bang...it isn't the risk that concerns it seems

     
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    HMOs may not be the answer, but surely there needs to be some kind of checking system to ensure all tenanted properties are actually safe, in habitable condition, and not ridiculously over-crowded. At present you don't need need to submit to anyone in authority an annual gas safety certificate or evidence of smoke alarms, never mind anything else ........ No-one even checks if a new landlord not using agents knows anything at all about his/her legal requirements or the very basics of the law on tenancies.

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    Much of this is in the tenant's control. If they aren't happy with the property they don't need to rent it.

     
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    The simple solution is this: stop taking tenants and do short licences. Kill off the rental market and place the housing problem on the government. Then they can give themselves hassle, fine themselves and imprison themselves while a million more homeless people sleep in railway stations, shop entrances and hopefully, outside Number 10!
    I will never again rent to a tenant!!!!!

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    The simple solution is this: stop taking tenants and do short licences. Kill off the rental market and place the housing problem on the government. Then they can give themselves hassle, fine themselves and imprison themselves while a million more homeless people sleep in railway stations, shop entrances and hopefully, outside Number 10!
    I will never again rent to a tenant!!!!!

  • EverythingPRS

    In my opinion the landlord only being sentenced to four months suspended for 12 is shocking... a person lost his life in horrible circumstances, due to the failures of the landlord. Adding insult to injury is the £20k fine... just an absolute joke!! 😤
    Not to forget the additional 12k in costs which I assume were mostly made up of barrister fees🙄

    What perplexes me most about this is whether or not the property was already licensed as an HMO? If it was, why did council officers not use enforcement under management regs to install the required fire detection/ doors etc??

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    Most tenancy agreements state no smoking within the property, now it's one thing stating this in the agreement, it is quite another enforcing it, HMOs I would say attract more of the types that are likely to be smokers and more of the types that would not adhere to the rules, so this increases the fire risk, I don't do HMOs because of the types of tenants they attract, we are all out to maximize profits but at what cost.

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    • 30 October 2020 19:48 PM

    Definitely HMO requirements are very confusing.
    Personally I wouldn't make a move without first checking with the particular Council what their requirements are.

    The Additional Licensing is especially confusing.

    What if you have a couple and an unrelated occupier.
    Presumably no licence required.

    Then the couple have a domestic so creating 3 unrelated occupiers

    Presumably that new domestic set up would require an Additional Licence.

    Clearly a bonkers situation that no LL could possibly monitor

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