East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is reminding managing agents of their legal responsibilities following a court case which resulted in a £28,000 fine and costs of more that £10,000.
Trainmerit Ltd trading as Maltbys Estate Agents of 20 Parkhurst Road, Bexhill, with other offices in Gravesend, Folkestone and Canterbury was today (25 June 2014) convicted for breaches of fire safety legislation relating to two properties for which they were acting as managing agents.
Trainmerit Ltd was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,931.98 by Hastings Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to a number of offences relating to 20/22 and 36 Sackville Road, Bexhill. Offences included the failure to properly manage fire safety arrangements, to review and implement the significant findings from fire risk assessments and the failure to comply with an Enforcement Notice.
Following a fatal fire at 36 Sackville Road on 23 May 2011, subsequent inspections found significant risks to the occupants at 36 and another property at 20/22 Sackville Road, also managed by Maltbys. These risks were created by inadequate fire protection and separation of the escape routes and a lack of fire alarms and emergency lighting. During the fire on the 23 May 2011 this had caused one occupant to become trapped in the top floor flat, having to rely on the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to help her escape.
The court heard Maltbys had been aware of these significant risks for a considerable time prior to the fire, as they had been highlighted previously in their own fire risk assessments. Whilst both premises are now compliant with fire safety law, from first being aware of the significant risks, it has taken formal action by East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and a considerable period of time to remedy these failings; in the case of 36 Sackville Road over three years and in the case of 20/22 Sackville Road four and a half years to achieve compliance with fire safety law.
Due to this protracted lack of action to deal with known fire safety failures and following the fire on 23 May 2011 it was deemed necessary by East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to prosecute.
When sentencing the company, the Magistrates commented that they had treated the offences with the utmost seriousness.
Group Manager Richard Fowler, Head of Business Safety for ESFRS said “East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service would like to take this opportunity to remind all managing agents and others with responsibilities for property management, of their legal responsibilities to protect occupants against the risks from fire. The public should continue to be reassured that we take any breaches of fire safety very seriously, and especially so where the premises provides sleeping accommodation”.
Managing agents and others with responsibilities for compliance with fire safety law are being advised to pay attention to their legal obligations to ensure that premises are safe from fire and in particular, to ensure that they have appropriate management systems to ensure that any significant safety deficiencies are properly dealt with in a timely manner.
Further fire safety advice for businesses is available on the ESFRS website, please visit www.esfrs.org/businessSafety/
Notes to Editors:
1. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Order) became current fire safety legislation in October 2006. It covers practically all types of premises except single domestic dwellings. It places the onus of responsibility for fire safety on the responsible person for each premises. Fire authorities advise and assist responsible persons to meet their statutory duties; they are also under a legislative duty to enforce the Order and are empowered to impose sanctions and bring prosecutions.
2. The Order is divided into a series of Articles; breaching particular Articles may constitute an offence. -
3. Under Article 32 It is an offence for any responsible person to fail to comply with any requirement imposed by Articles 8 – 22. Under Article 32 it is also an offence to fail to comply with an Enforcement Notice.
4. Convictions in this case were against Articles 9 for a failure to review the fire risk assessment, Article 11 for failing to provide adequate fire safety arrangements, Article 13 for failing to provide adequate fire detection and Article 32 (1)(d) for failing to comply with an Enforcement Notice.
5. Fire safety advice and guidance upon all types of premises is available on the Communities and Local Government website: https://www.gov.uk/workplace-fire-safety-your-responsibilities/fire-safety-advice-documents