Landmark case serves as a warning to landlords and letting agents

Following a landmark court case West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is calling on landlords and letting agencies to open their eyes to the risk of not having working smoke alarms in their properties.

The warning comes after a landlord was jailed for one year yesterday after two young brothers died in a house fire in a rented property where there were no smoke alarms.

Kamal Bains, 51, of Stableford Gardens, Birkby, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court on 16 July for failing to install smoke alarms, under Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, of Exposing Public to Risk.

Bains, who was the letting agent responsible for the property, was told by the judge that the failure to fit smoke alarms was a “significant cause” of the deaths of Logan Taylor, three, and two-year-old Jake Casey.

The fire happened on February 20, 2016, at a house on Alder Street in Huddersfield.

The fire was believed to have started as consequence of an electrical fault in equipment which was in the young boys’ bedroom. The two boys were asleep in their bedroom when devices including a television set alight and proved fatal for the two boys.

The court heard that their mother had tried to save them but was beaten back by the heat of the fire.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind since new legislation was introduced in 2015 which put extra duties on landlords and letting agents.

The law states private sector landlords are required to:

  1. Have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties
  2. Have a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg a coal fire, wood burning stove).

After that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.

Area Manager for Service Delivery Chris Kirby said: “We really hope that this case serves as a stark warning to other landlords or property managers to ensure that they are keeping up with the law.

“A smoke alarm is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment but you cannot put a price on people’s lives. It is utterly tragic to think that these children could have been saved for something so simple as the fitting of a smoke alarm.

“Smoke alarms give people an early warning that a fire has broken out and the chance to escape or, as in this case, to be rescued. This devastating case should highlight to landlords and letting agents the potential risk they are putting tenants at if they do not fulfil their responsibilities.

“In this case the consequences of the fire were utterly heart-breaking. If you are a landlord with properties that have no smoke detectors, then we urge you to do something immediately to protect your tenants’ lives.”

The court heard that Bains was of previous good character.

We recommend that landlords/letting agents:

  1. Read and act on the regulations, available in full here: The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015