Agent fined £28,000 for inadequate fire protection

The Bexhill-on-Sea Observer has reported that a well known Bexhill managing agent has been fined £28,000 for failing to protect tenants from the risk of fire.

Trainmerit Ltd, which trades locally as Maltby's Estate Agents, was convicted for breaches of fire safety legislation relating to two properties in Sackville Road, Bexhill. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £10,931.98 by Hastings Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to offences relating to 20/22 and 36 Sackville Road. These 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.

A fatal fire at 36 Sackville Road on May 23 2011 led to inspections at the other properties managed by Maltby’s and revealed significant risk to the lives of occupants. These risks were created by inadequate fire protection and separation of the escape routes and a lack of fire alarms and emergency lighting.

During that tragic fire this lack of safety procedure 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 treated the offences with the utmost seriousness, said a EFFRS spokesman. Group Manager Richard Fowler, Head of Business Safety, commented: “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”.

Cllr Joy Hughes, Rother’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “We welcome the judgement against Trainmerit Ltd (trading as Maltbys Estate Agents in Bexhill) and hope that this sends out a clear message that Rother District Council and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service take the safety of tenants extremely seriously, and will take action against anyone breaching fire regulations.”

If you have questions about fire risk assessment, or for help on any aspect of fire safety, call us on 01524 784356 today.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

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