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Press Release - Accommodation on holiday hosting websites subject to fire safety legislation, Service warns
Posted on 26/07/2017

A Plymouth landlady who advertised her house on popular holiday hosting websites has been given a suspended sentence for fire safety failures.

It is believed to be one of the first prosecutions of a premises advertised on hosting websites of this type in the country.

Judge Lawrie warned that people renting “Airbnb-type premises” must adhere to the same fire safety legislation as all businesses providing sleeping accommodation.

He said: “When you rent out property for whatever circumstances you have a clear obligation to ensure the safety of the occupants.”

Mrs Jean Hendy, the former owner and responsible person for 16 Duke Street, Devonport, appeared at Plymouth Crown Court for sentencing today (Tuesday 25 July) and was given a six month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £5,580 costs plus a surcharge of £115.

Mrs Hendy had previously pleaded guilty to all six charges at Plymouth Magistrates Court and the Judge took her early guilty plea, poor health, previous good character and actions taken when ordered by the fire service into account.

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service officers had attended the premises on 8 August 2016 after receiving notification from Plymouth City Council of a complaint received from a member of the public.

The house consisted of a single staircase serving three floors and a converted attic space. Mrs Hendy occupied the ground floor and advertised the use of the upper floors on a number of recognised holiday hosting websites, offering sleeping accommodation for up to nine people.

As officers inspected the premises they identified a number of deficiencies under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which included:
• a lack of a suitable automatic fire detection and warning system;
• inadequate protection to the single escape stair;
• inappropriate storage of bedding and other combustible materials at the base of the single staircase
• lack of emergency lighting

Due to the dangerous conditions found at the premises a prohibition notice was served.

The subsequent investigation by Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service revealed that Mrs Hendy had previously let the premises but this had ceased when a visit by Plymouth City Council identified fire safety concerns. Rather than address the deficiencies Mrs Hendy changed from letting to offering B&B and self-catering.

In summing up, Judge Lawrie describes the premises as a potential “death-trap” and said: “You are a thoroughly careless person who rented out accommodation that put people at significant risk of harm and death.”

Group Manager Paul Bray, Business Safety Manager for Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, said: "Anyone who has or is thinking of turning their home into a business providing sleeping accommodation has a duty to ensure the people staying on their premises will be kept safe.

“Identifying ways to earn money from your property is growing in popularity but this must not be at the expense of the safety of others."

The internet is a great way for connecting people and it also provides a wealth of information, freely available. If you are thinking of or have already started a business, advice and guidance on how to comply with your fire safety responsibilities can be found on the government website at www.gov.uk/workplace-fire-safety-your-responsibilities 

Alternatively,

To report concerns about fire safety in a property or for advice about making your business safe contact Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service;

Monday to Friday, 9:00 – 17:00

Call 01392 872288 to be put through to your local fire safety team or
Email firesafety@dsfire.gov.uk

Guidance for people providing sleeping accommodation for paying guests is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/11085/payingguests.pdf


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