Landlord who ‘wilfully’ ignored fire safety prosecuted

A landlord in Sheffield has been given a suspended jail term after admitting to violating fire safety laws, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS) reports.

The successful prosecution follows a fire that broke out in the stairwell area of a building in February 2022 that left 11 people trapped.

Several fire crews responded to the incident, with SYFRS adding that firefighters “wearing breathing apparatus located the people, staying with them until the blaze was extinguished and the property could be ventilated”. 

Firefighters later rescued those who had become trapped in their flats via ladders. It is understood that the single staircase inside the building also collapsed in the fire, causing a firefighter to “fall through the stairs”.

In the investigation that followed, business fire safety officers for SYFRS found no fire alarm or emergency lighting in the building. They also discovered the fire doors were of a “poor standard” and that there was no staircase ventilation.

Found to be in breach of multiple fire safety regulations with tenants put at “real risk of serious harm”, landlord Zahir Ahmed pleaded guilty to six charges of failing to comply with articles under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

On 6 June 2024, he appeared at Sheffield Crown Court where he was sentenced to six months imprisonment for each offence (to run concurrently), suspended for 18 months. He was ordered to pay £10,000 in prosecution costs at £1,000 per month as well as complete 250 hours of unpaid community service work.

During the sentencing, Judge Robinson said: “Mr Ahmed was wilfully not caring about the safety of individuals. There had been a dreadful fire, which resulted in a firefighter falling through the stairs. It could have been catastrophic and was in my view, a near fatal fire.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Strelczenie said: “Landlords and other responsible persons are responsible for preventing fires in the first instance. Should a fire then occur in a building they are responsible for, other protection measures become absolutely critical.

This fire could have had a catastrophic outcome had it not been for the highly skilled professionalism of our firefighters. Due to the lack of fire safety systems and management within this premises, it was extremely fortuitous in this instance that people did not die.

This sentence is a reminder to all responsible persons that we can and will prosecute people when they fail to adhere to the laws which are there to keep people safe.”

SYFRS has since reminded businesses and landlords about the duties of the responsible person to ensure a suitable fire risk assessment has been carried out and that a building complies with fire safety laws and regulations. Further guidance has been made available on the SYFRS website.