“Death trap flat” landlords stripped of HMO licences

“Death trap flat” landlords stripped of HMO licences

15:46 PM, 17th May 2011, About 13 years ago 1

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Cartoon house fireHusband and wife property investors Michael and Margaret McQueen were branded as unfit landlords by councillors and have lost their licences to run a ‘death trap’ shared student house.

Councillors decided they had a ‘total disregard’ for the upkeep of a flat housing seven students after hearing a damning fire safety report.

A safety check revealed a catalogue of fire hazards and angry councillors in St Andrew’s, Fife, Scotland, decided the McQueens, together with letting agents Murray Donald Drummond Cook were not fit to manage a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

They heard the shared flat in Alexandra Place, St Andrew’s, had blocked fire escape routes, disconnected automatic self-closing fire doors and filthy kitchen appliances that were a fire risk.

Councillors decided to strip the property owners and letting agents of their licences to manage the property.

Owners and agents should check their properties

For the agents, this leaves their management services for other HMOs in jeopardy as they may be judged unfit to run these properties as well. The firm is believed to handle around 300 properties, including 60 HMOs.

Councillor David MacDiarmid told the meeting hearing an application to renew the couple’s HMO licence that they had a ‘total disregard’ for the property.

“My great fear is that this inspection is merely the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There must now be a regime set up by Fife Fire and Rescue Service to make sure that HMOs are a high priority for inspection. No unsafe HMO should be able to slip through the net.”

St Andrew’s councillor Bill Sangster said, “This property had clearly been neglected by the agent and owner. The safety of residents in HMOs is paramount and stringent checks on these properties must be carried out at regular intervals by owners or agents.”

Student Ted Rosner, who lived in the flat, told a local newspaper that he and his flatmates were told by previous tenants that the property was a “death trap” when they moved in.

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Michael Holmes

16:04 PM, 23rd July 2011, About 13 years ago

I own two HMO'S, So I have some knowledge of the problems these properties can give rise to. The main problem is one of perceptions, who is supposed to keep the property clean and tidy? The tenants surely. However, if they do not, then suddenly it is the Lanldord who is in the firing line. I have had several incidents of deliberate sabotage of the fire alarm and extinguisher systems. Even with weekly tests and examinations, you can be six days without adequate cover. If an incident occurs in that time, say your fire alarm fails to function or the extinguishers have been emptied, guess who is going to get it in the neck? Not the tenant, I bet, especially if death or injury is involved. Doubtless there are crummy Landlords out there who let all safety precautions slide, but the authorities seem to be very quick on the draw when it comes to prosecuting them but really tardy when it comes to assisting Landlords to eject bad tenants.

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