The landlords of a house where a young boy died in a fire in Thornton Heath have been ordered to pay £14,858 for illegally renting out an unlicensed property.
The house in Camden Gardens was without working smoke alarms when it caught fire resulting in the death of the son of the tenants 13-year-old Kuzi Matope.
The property which was being rented by the family-of-five did not have a Croydon Council landlord licence, which includes fire safety checks.
Firefighters attended the scene, but Kuzi Matope died in hospital just over a week later. The cause of Kuzi’s death has yet to be determined at an inquest, but neither of the two smoke alarms found at the house worked.
At Croydon Magistrates’ Court landlords Innocent and Clementia Mukarati, of Leatherhead, Surrey, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to license the property under section 95 of the Housing Act 2004.
Croydon Council brought the prosecution against Mr Mukarati, 50, and Mrs Mukarati, 47, (pictured top) after the fatal fire led to the discovery that the couple had not applied for a licence.
This has been a legal requirement for all privately-rented homes in Croydon since 2015.
CONSULTATION ON LANDLORD LICENSING
One of the scheme’s key licence conditions is the need for landlords to put in place stringent fire safety measures.
Ordering the couple to each pay a £787.50 fine, a £78 victim surcharge and £6,563.42 in court costs, or £14,858.84 in total, District Judge Nicholas Easterman sent his condolences to the Matope family, adding that the case was about a failure to license the property and that he could not consider the fire.
He said: “The licensing scheme was introduced by Croydon some time ago to improve the quality of rented premises in the borough.
“The council has done what it could appropriately to bring the scheme to the attention of landlords. Where people rent out property – whether commercial or otherwise – it is incumbent on them to find out what the regulations are.
“It is clear that the smoke alarms were not working; it is not possible to know how long for. Had the defendants known of the licensing provisions they might have been more active in the care taken over these sorts of matters. This did not have a material effect on the tragic events which unfolded.”
Speaking after the hearing Kuzi’s father, Patrick Matope, (pictured with his son) said: “It is heart-breaking to look back. Kuzivakwashe was a son we loved so much; we miss him every day. He was a very kind, happy, loving, active, well-behaved son who loved going to church. He loved his two younger brothers so dearly and they both miss him too.
“It’s good that the council has come up with this scheme as we think it ensures that landlords take their responsibility seriously, and we would encourage private tenants to check if their property is on the register.”
The council says it will now add the Mukaratis to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord database.
Cllr Alison Butler, Croydon Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and gateway services, said: “My thoughts are first and foremost with Kuzi’s family, who have lost their son in terrible circumstances. Croydon Council’s licensing scheme makes sure private landlords give their tenants decent and safe homes, and this tragic case underlines why it’s important.
“I hope this prosecution serves as a warning to Croydon landlords that privately let homes in our borough must be licensed or we will take appropriate action.”
The Fire Brigade supported and praised the Council in bringing this prosecution.