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February 25, 2009

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Landlord fined after tenant killed by faulty gas fire

A landlord has been fined £40,000 after one of his tenants died from carbon monoxide poisoning, which was caused by a faulty gas fire.

Gordon Cunningham, 58, was living alone at a flat in Stafford, which he rented from Shahid Hussain. On 10 February 2006, Hussain visited the property, as he had not heard from Mr Cunningham for a considerable amount of time. When the occupant did not answer, Hussain tried to let himself into the flat, but was unable to get inside because the door was on its chain. He called the police, who broke into the premises, and found Mr Cunningham sat dead in a chair next to a lit gas fire.

Police determined that Mr Cunningham had been dead for over 10 days. They also noticed that the living room was covered in soot and decided to contact the HSE to investigate the death.

HSE inspectors concluded that the gas fire was the cause of death, while tests showed that it had numerous faults and was emitting an extremely high level of carbon monoxide.

As part of the investigation the HSE also inspected eight other properties, which are managed by Hussain on behalf of his close relatives. As a result, the Executive issued three Improvement Notices ordering Hussain to produce gas safety certificates. He was only able to produce certificates for two of the properties and was instructed to attain certificates for the remaining premises.

Hussain pleaded guilty to breaching s3(2) of the HSWA 1974 at Stafford Crown Court on 20 February. He was fined £40,000 and order to pay £44,500 in costs. The court stipulated that the fine must be paid by 31 January 2010 or he would face an 18-month prison sentence.

In mitigation, Hussain expressed remorse for Mr Cunningham’s death and said that he has fully complied with the Improvement Notices and had carried out significant repairs to the properties that contained gas appliances. He also urged the court to be lenient with any financial punishment as he claimed to have limited means.

HSE investigating inspector, Christia Killen, said: “The landlord had chosen to ignore the need for safety checks and the provision of gas safety certificates. His continued failure to manage the gas appliances in his properties put at least 18 tenants at risk from both carbon monoxide poisoning and a gas explosion.”

 

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