Sunderland flat owners fined thousands over serious fire safety concerns in city property

Three men have been prosecuted by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service following serious fire safety concerns surrounding two blocks of flats in Sunderland.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 2:47 pm
Updated Friday, 29th November 2019, 5:27 pm

The investigation came after the fire service received information from Sunderland Environmental Health, which was carrying out its own investigation, regarding a property on the city’s North Bridge Street.

Firefighters then carried out an inspection at the property, which in turn revealed serious issues at two adjoining flats.

The premises, which was home to 11 people at the time, presented a serious risk to life due to the lack of fire resistant compartmentation and the lack of a working fire alarm.

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The affected properties were on North Bridge Street, Sunderland.

Mohammedsalem Sabbar Mahdi, Abdullateef Sabbar Mahdi, the property owners, and Mr Ahmed Khattab, the managing agent, were found guilty of failing to reply to an Article 27 notice and fined thousands at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court.

A warning to others

Group Manager Richie Rickaby, Head of Fire Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Providing relevant information to us is an essential part to any fire safety investigation and failing to do so prevents the service from being able to do its job.

“In these circumstances, the service will not hesitate to use our full powers to ensure that those responsible are dealt with appropriately by the courts.

Inside one of the properties on North Bridge Street, Sunderland.

“I hope this case will also provide a stark warning to others who may seek to avoid their fire safety responsibilities.”

Following its inspection in December 2018, the fire service placed a prohibition notice on both blocks of flats, which stopped the residents from living there until the fire safety concerns were addressed.

Sunderland City Council provided alternative accommodation to the affected people.

The investigation resulted in Khattab being found guilty of nine offences under the Licencing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (additional provision) (England) Regulations 2007.

Building work at the North Bridge Street property, which had been converted poorly into self-contained flats, did not comply with regulations.

This contributed to the breaches of fire safety responsibilities.

What did the men get fined?

Mohammedsalem Sabbar Mahdi was found guilty on two counts of failure to reply to an Article 27 Notice. He received fines of £500 per offence plus £1563.19 costs and a £50 victim surcharge.

Abdullateef Sabbar Mahdi was found guilty on two counts of failure to reply to an Article 27 Notice. He received fines of £500 per offence plus £1563.19 costs and a £50 victim surcharge.

Mr Ahmed Khattab was found guilty on 4 counts of failure to reply to an Article 27 Notice. He received fines of £150 per offence plus full £1563.18 costs plus a £170 victim surcharge.

Duty of care

Fiona Brown, Executive Director of Neighbourhood Services at Sunderland City Council said: “As a council we have a duty to protect the public so we are pleased to have been successful in bringing this case to court.

“Landlords have clear responsibilities in houses of multiple occupation and these are enshrined in the 2006 and 2007 Regulations.

“Failing to comply with the regulations commits an offence and the Council will exercise its statutory function and target criminal landlords, who put profits before safety.

“The Housing Enforcement Policy launched by the council in June will allow a civil penalty to be issued as opposed to a prosecution and these can be up to £30,000.”