Pyromaniac elderly neighbour

Pyromaniac elderly neighbour

11:57 AM, 13th April 2015, About 7 years ago 5

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A friend of mine owns an apartment in a Grade II medieval house. His neighbour, an owner occupier, is 94 and has set fire to her apartment 3 times in 11 months. The first two fires were minor, but the last badly affected 6 of the dwellings so the owners had to move out while their homes were rebuilt.

This lady’s repairs have been completed and she is due to come out of hospital to return home. The other residents are in a state of terror. She insists on lighting about 50 candles every night – claiming that’s how medieval homes should be lit. She has no family that they are aware of and social services say she’s got all her marbles and owns her home so there is nothing they can do.

They all have little chance of selling due to the situation. Do you think social services could be forced to act? Oh and by the way because of the building’s status, planning have ruled against a sprinkler system! Once the lady returns my friend is planning to move into rental accommodation. His insurance company are now investigating and may refuse to re-insure.



Pauline Anderson

14:34 PM, 13th April 2015, About 7 years ago

Hello Gillian

What a difficult, and potentially dangerous situation.

Firstly, a report regarding the vulnerability of this elderly lady can be lodged with the local AGEUK office. It can be done online, or by attending the local office. They, in turn, should alert the SAFEGUARDING VULNERABLE ADULTS department of social services. If there is no family, there may well be a solicitor, advocate or power of attorney nominated and social services are in a position to clarify this.

Secondly, there should be fire services reports on the causes of the fires. If the causes were attributed to numerous candles in the elderly lady's home, I am surprised that the fire service have not alerted the relevant services.

Thirdly, most areas now have a MASH which is a mult-agency safeguarding hub. The purpose of MASH is to bring together all relevant organisations to deal with a specific problem/person. It might be worthwhile checking with the police and fire services if a case has already been initiated regarding this incident. There is a possibility that a case could be opened on the basis of potential reckless endangerment (lighting so many candles and her age and potential slow mobility).

Fourthly, it is very difficult to assess mental capacity because there are many instances of it coming and going. Many elderly people are adept at hiding their vulnerability and inability to make informed decisions. Social services have a duty of care to safeguard vulnerable adults but may try to abdicate responsibility on the basis of the rights of the person having precedence. In which case you need as much agency evidence of the ongoing risk of more fires. If there is sufficient evidence a case could be brought against social services.

I do not have any legal qualifications but have been a voluntary advocate for many vulnerable adults, and been invited to local MASH meetings. I also teach health and social care at degree level. I hope that this is helpful and gives you a starting point.

Sally T

6:14 AM, 14th April 2015, About 7 years ago

Just because she lights candles doesn't mean she needs locking up in nursing home, if she is capable of living in her own home she should be allowed to. That doesn't mean you should sit back and do nothing, have you obtained fire reports stating it was her candles that started the fires ? If so have you considered reporting her for anti social behaviour, you can do it through your local authority or you and the other residents could take her to court collectively. You could ask a judge to ban her from lighting candles or she'd be breaking the law. The management company (if there is one) may want in.
Please don't see her as a 94 year old, but just as a crazy person that loves lighting candles.
If I'm wrong and she is vulnerable and needs help I'm sure the judge will takes steps to make sure she gets the help she needs.

Gillian Schifreen

10:37 AM, 18th April 2015, About 7 years ago

Unfortunately Sally, all three fires have been caused by the candles and my friend has recently found out she had 2 fires in 2012 before he moved in again caused by the candles.

It appears she is one of the "I'll do what I like" brigade and despite being told to change her ways she says she has no intention of doing so!!!

Gillian Schifreen

10:41 AM, 18th April 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Pauline Anderson" at "13/04/2015 - 14:34":

That has given me a huge amount of useful information Pauline, that I will pass onto my friend.

The latest information is the insurers have declined to cover the property again and a local estate agent says potential buyers will have to be informed about the situation effectively making the apartments unsaleable.

Hopefully the other residents can use your info to get some help.

Thanks Gillian.


12:05 PM, 18th April 2015, About 7 years ago

Who owns the freehold? Is the insurance arranged by a managing agent?

The freeholder is responsible for the fabric of the building and can put steps in motion to forfeit the lease as she is not abiding by it. This might make her see sense.

Perhaps the insurance people could speak to the council and get dispensation for a sprinkler system as without it there might not be a historic building to protect and list.

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