A judge has described a property in Holland Park as a “deathtrap” and an “accident waiting to happen” while ordering its landlord to pay more than £60,000.
District Judge Margot Coleman heard the property in 118 Woodsford Square, let by David Leslie Symonds to six tenants, lacked a proper fire detection system and other fire safety precautions.
The defendant was fined £57,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,825 and a victim surcharge of £120 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday April 26 after previously admitting to three charges.
The poor state of the four-storey 1950s-built mid-terrace property was brought to the attention of Kensington and Chelsea Council after firefighters were called to deal with an incident there.
Health and safety officers found a number of safety breaches. This included:
- No automatic fire detection system within the property, meaning there was no proper early warning system to alert occupants of a fire.
- An absence of fire safety equipment, fixtures and fittings including smoke seals and fire separation between bedsit rooms.
- An absence of fire doors to some rooms and damaged fire doors to others, with holes in at least one of the doors, increasing the likelihood of a fire spreading through the building rapidly.
- All of the bedsit rooms were fitted with key-operated locks meaning that, in the event of a fire, there was a risk of the occupant being locked in their room.
- Loose electrical cables with multiple electrical adaptors being used, which could increase the likelihood of a fire occurring due to extra load on electrical circuits.
- No evidence of a current Gas Safe certificate for the boiler or heating system.
- An escape route - a staircase leading to the property’s garden - was obstructed by a table, chairs and a gas cylinder.
The court heard Symonds had failed to apply for a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence, which was required as the property had six tenants who were not related.
On March 1 he pleaded guilty to two offences under the Housing Act 2004, one offence under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and 18 breaches of HMO regulations.
In mitigation, the court heard Symonds accepted he was not managing his affairs properly at the time and he could have benefited from the services of a property management agent.
At sentencing, the defence said Symonds did not have flagrant disregard for his responsibilities, rather he had a medical condition and was not capable of managing property.
The defendant was given credit for his early guilty plea.
Symonds is no longer letting the Woodsford Square property and is due to sell it.
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