Landlord fined £20,000 for not testing fire alarms before blaze ripped through block of flats

A landlord has been fined £20,000 for not testing fire alarms before a blaze ripped through a block of flats.

Two people were left trapped upstairs during the fire weeks after the landlord was told the fire alarm did not work.

The three-storey Victorian house in Worthing, West Sussex, which was split into flats, caught fire on May 14 last year.

Firefighters managed to rescue the two people trapped in the burning building.

Both escaped without major injury, though one man was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

Former landlord Terry Millis, 63, admitted yesterday (Wed) that he put the lives of five residents at risk and pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to comply with requirements to prevent the risk of fire.

He was said to have failed to ensure that the premises and facilities, equipment and devices in the premises complied with the Fire safety Order, were not maintained, were not in good repair, which left residents at risk of death or serious injury in case of a fire.

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court Millis was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £1,743.47 costs to West Sussex County Council.

District Judge Tessa Szagun said Millis, of Sompting, West Sussex, had a “high level” of culpability and fined him £20,000 for “failures” in the lead up to the fire.

She said: “The purpose of sentencing in this type of case is to protect the safety of individuals living in such premises by ensuring that there is no financial gain by any person cutting corners.

“There is also a necessity to deter others from doing so.”

Millis had contacted a company to repair the fire alarm two months before the fire, but the work had not been done.

Michael Stoneham prosecuting said residents never heard fire alarms being tested.

He said: “A resident explained she had lived in the property for four years and had never heard the fire alarm sound.

“The failures to have the fire regulations in place resulted in the lives of the residents being in danger.

“Mr Millis was aware that the alarm wasn’t working and the danger that the residents were at risk of.

“Mr Terry Millis did not have a fire risk assessment and was aware that the fire alarm was not in working order.

“Several of the smoke detectors had the manufacturer’s dust covers still on them, rendering them non-responsive to smoke.”

“The watch manager for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service noticed smoke issuing from the building and four of the residents were stood outside the property.

“The fire was in the process of spreading to the loft. It was ascertained that there were two people trapped inside on the second floor of the property due to the stairs being smoke logged.

The court heard the blaze was caused by a cooking surface being left unattended.

Chris Chatterton, defending, said Millis checked the alarms every month in the daytime.

He said: “That would explain why there were no alarm tests heard by residents. The fire itself is through no fault of Mr Millis.”


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