Landlord and company director fined over illegal flat in London Road, Ipswich

Firefighters responding to an incident at the London Road property found a flat in the basement

Firefighters responding to an incident at the London Road property found a flat in the basement - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

An Ipswich landlord and company director were fined more than £50,000 after firefighters discovered an illegal flat within a house of multiple occupation (HMO).

Ipswich Borough Council launched an investigation into the property in London Road in June 2019, after firefighters called to an incident there discovered a "range" of fire safety concerns in addition to an illegal basement flat.

The investigation found that while planning permission had been granted to turn the house into an HMO in 1996, the building was instead converted into five flats – including the basement flat a council spokesman said was specifically prohibited.

Water damage was also found in the London Road property

Water damage was also found in the London Road property - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

Works had not been signed off under proper building regulations and a "number" of safety concerns were also identified. 

Francis Investments (East Anglia) Ltd and the company's director, Ralph Bernard, were both charged with 11 offences related to the property – which were also related electrical defects, fire alarm issues and water damage.

Following a two-day trial at Suffolk Magistrates Court on Tuesday, April 13, both Mr Bernard and his company were found guilty of 10 offences.

Inspectors also found electrical faults in the property

Inspectors also found electrical faults in the property - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

Mr Bernard was fined £29,000 for 10 convictions, while Francis Investments (East Anglia) Ltd was fined £7,250. Costs totalled £16,836.20 while a victim surcharge of £181 is also payable. 

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Ian Blofield, head of housing and community services at Ipswich Borough Council, said the council will hold those to account should they put residents at risk.

Mr Blofield said: “Flats and HMOs play an important role in meeting the housing needs of Ipswich residents.

"However, they can pose additional risks to the health, safety and wellbeing of residents if they are not properly designed and managed.

"This case demonstrates that the council will hold to account those who disregard the law and put residents at risk."

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