Thursday 4th July 2019
A private landlord who put the lives of his tenants at risk has been ordered to pay a £20,000 fine and £18,790 prosecution costs.
Graham Hammer, 68, was also handed a six month sentence suspended for 12 months with a two month curfew between 7pm and 6am.
No fewer than 16 tenants, including a number of vulnerable children, had to be evacuated from the Derby Court Hotel in Pole Street, Preston, when Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service carried out an inspection in February last year.
Preston Crown Court heard that Hammer had inherited the building, which at the time was an amusement arcade, from his father in 1982, and converted it to a hotel. But in more recent years he has let out rooms as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).
The Court was also told that the landlord took a “careless, if not cavalier approach to fire safety” putting his tenants at serious risk of danger.
Having already received a fine of £500 for fire safety breaches in 2016, Hammer was handed a number of action points from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.
But when officers visited the property to carry out a routine inspection, not only did they find a number of the tradesmen living on site on the top two floors of the building, but also discovered power tools left unsupervised and holes in ceilings and part of the ground floor used as a workshop for cutting wood.
Hammer also told officers there had been a recent issue with water escaping into the electrical systems , added that he did not think there was anything in the building that could cause a fire.
Recorder Philip Parry said: “If you genuinely didn’t think there was anything in this hotel which could burn or catch fire then it really was a cavalier attitude to fire safety.”
Inspection of the safety systems also found some fire doors were jammed, others did not fit properly, while the fire alarm was faulty.
Parry added: “In my judgement you displayed a casual, if not cavaler attitude to fire safety.
“Your failure to ensure the building was adequately protected can only be down to your wish to save money.”
Hammer, pleaded guilty to four fire safety breaches by failing to take general fire safety precautions by ensuring adequate separation; failing to complete an adequate risk assessment relating to maintenance, monitoring and fire drills; failing to maintain adequate means of escape and failing to maintain systems to prevent the risk of death or serious injury.
Hammer has now sold the Derby Court Hotel to a developer who plans to convert it into student accommodation.