fire safety

09 May 23

The landlord of a cellar ‘flat’ where a fire resulted in the death of a man has been jailed for breaching health and safety regulations.

Philip Sheridan died of injuries suffered in a blaze in the unofficially converted basement where he lived in Leeds.

The fire broke out on June 26 2019 and Sheridan, aged 32, died on July 6 that year as a result of complications arising from severe smoke inhalation.

Said Phil Turtle, compliance and fire risk director with Landlord Licensing & Defence ” My compliance team inspects hundreds of rental properties annually and at least 90% have fire safety issues that could kill or give life altering injuries to tenants if a fire occurred. Fire risk assessment is complex and most landlords (and many council officers) just do not have the skills to assess the risks safely. 

“ Landlords should employ a fire risk assessment expert at least once to have a professional assessment – especially when the standard Council fine is some  £20,000 to £30,000. 

“ The horrific situation where a life was lost would not have occurred if the landlord had taken fire safety seriously. We would much rather landlords made properties fire-safe than getting big council fines. But those fines and jail are totally deserved if landlords take unacceptable and unnecessary risks with tenants’ lives. Read about fire here.

At Leeds Crown Court earlier this week landlord Humrazz Shahid was given an immediate 13-month prison term.

Shahid had earlier admitted the offence of failing to discharge a duty owed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The court was told that, after the incident, both the fire service and local authority concluded that the converted cellar in a mid-terraced house was unsuitable for human habitation, due in part to the inadequacy of the fire detection and escape measures.

The cellar had only had one entrance – through an inward-opening door that did not have a proper handle on it. That door was partially blocked by the cooker, which was the source of the fire. 

The court also heard that there was no smoke or fire alarm fitted in the property at the time.

Though Shahid was not the owner of the property, he had the authority to deal with its management and had done so since 2008.

He was shown as the landlord on the tenancy agreement he signed with Sheridan in August 2013, and Sheridan’s housing benefit was paid directly into Shahid’s bank account.

Sheridan did manage to escape from the property on his own, but in doing so suffered burns to the back of his head, upper torso, neck and arms, which were consistent with him having to lean back over the cooker which was on fire.

He collapsed on the pavement outside the address and was transferred to hospital where he remained until his death.

Detective Superintendent Marc Bowes, of West Yorkshire Police, says: “The death of Philip Sheridan in these circumstances was an absolute tragedy, but one that was entirely avoidable had Shahid taken his responsibilities to ensure a safe living environment seriously.

“We worked closely with Leeds City Council to bring this successful prosecution, and we hope that seeing Shahid held accountable for his flagrant breach of the regulations will serve as a clear reminder to other landlords and property managers who fail to meet their legal obligations to put the safety of their tenants first.”

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