The managing agent of a block of flats in London has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay almost £13,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of fire safety law.
Douglas and Gordon Ltd pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Southwark crown court on 29 June 2008. The leasehold owner of the premises in Gloucester Terrace, Paddington, Atomlynn Ltd, was fined £33,000 after pleading guilty to one offence under the Order and ordered to pay costs of £6,440.
Following a fire in one of the flats, London Fire Brigade carried out an audit of the communal areas. Officers found a number of fire safety breaches which included a failure to install a fire alarm system and a failure to ensure that the electrical intake cupboard was locked.
A fire risk assessment had been carried out but the managing agent and leaseholder had failed to act on its significant findings, said London Fire Brigade. These included the failure to make an emergency plan, ensuring that fire doors were self-closing and installing emergency lighting.
Assistant commissioner for fire safety regulation, Steve Turek, said: “London Fire Brigade will continue to take action against managing agents, lease owners or landlords who do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a prosecution.”
In a statement issued following the sentence, Douglas and Gordon Ltd (D&G) said:
“D&G and its legal and technical advisors were surprised at the level of the fine as they believed the breaches represented a low level of risk, the avoidance of which is the central criteria for implementing fire precautions under the Order.
“The introduction of the Order has caused difficulties for landlords, managing agents, consultants and enforcing authorities alike when it comes to applying the legislation to blocks of flats like Gloucester Terrace. This was demonstrated by the five separate fire risk assessments D&G commissioned for the building, all of which provided different advice. We welcome the Government’s commitment to the provision of new national guidance on fire precautions in blocks of flats, which will be developed by CS Todd & Associates Limited.”
The company added that since 2008, it has worked to ensure that all of the 150 properties it manages are compliant and that its clients are properly advised of their responsibilities.