A DEBT-RIDDEN landlord from Northwood has been fined £20,000 after six people had a lucky escape from a 'serious' fire which destroyed two flats above a restaurant.
Hitesh Mashru, of The Fairway, admitted breaching four fire safety regulations after the blaze, above the Thai Sunset in Bushey High Street, near Watford, on April 24 last year.
An electrical fault from a down lighter sparked the fire, which ripped through the upstairs flats, and took 50 fire fighters more than 12 hours to extinguish.
Mashru, a 49-year-old property developer who is £66,000 in debt, admitted endangering life by failing to carry out a risk assessment and ensure the safety of the electrical supply.
He also failed to ensure the property had appropriate safety equipment including a smoke detector and fire doors.
Watford Magistrates' Court heard last Monday (February 28) that the precautions taken to comply with the regulations would have cost just a few thousand pounds.
Prosecuting on behalf of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Judith Gower told the court it was by mere chance that the six people did not die in the raging fire, which left the building without a roof.
Three out of four people living in flat 39b returned at 3am after a night out, and smelled burning.
They assumed it was coming from the Thai restaurant downstairs, which was unconnected to the case, and went to bed.
Three hours later, their lives were probably saved after one male resident woke up to get a drink and go to the toilet.
After smelling smoke in the communal hallway, he went to investigate, before raising the alarm.
Mrs Gower added: "It was only by luck that one of the occupants woke up and got the others to safety.
"It was a very serious fire. The defendant fell well short of the appropriate standards and placed people at risk of death or serious injury."
Representing Mashru, Gary Edel said he was 'most deeply remorseful.'
The court heard he was 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' with different credit cards, to continue living in his £700,000 home, while sending his two children to private school.
Mashru had accumulated £66,000 in credit card debt and would soon have to sell the family home. To pay the fine, he will have to borrow cash from friends and family.
Chairman of the bench, Michelle Reeves, fined Mashru £5,000 for each of the four breaches, plus £7,394.58 court costs.
Sentencing, she said: "From your own admission you have been in the building trade as a project manager seven to 10 years.
"You have deliberately chosen to ignore the requirements and were motivated by financial gain above the safety of residents."
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