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Landlord in Shirley fined for putting lives at risk
10:50am Monday 11th March 2013 in News
HE took taxpayers’ money so residents on social security could live in his Southampton flat.
But while Mohinder Singh Kenth was being paid housing benefit as rent for his tenants, their lives were being put at risk through a catalogue of fire safety breaches.
Broken fire doors and a defective fire alarm were found when police uncovered “dangerous” conditions at the 61-year-old’s property in St Mary’s Road.
Now Kenth, of Atherley Road, Shirley, has been fined £8,000 after being found guilty of breaching a string of fire safety regulations.
He had pleaded not guilty to charges against him and after the case at Southampton Magis-trates’ Court, insisted he had done nothing wrong.
District Judge Anthony Callaway heard how fire investigators found a defective fire alarm, broken fire doors and an absence of a clear evacuation procedure.
Senior members of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said conditions inside were “dangerous”, claiming that “lives could be lost” in the event of a blaze.
The hazards were discovered on May 1, 2011, when police were called to the property following reports of a fight. Officers recognised that the fire door was off its hinges and fire chiefs were called to examine the property.
Station manager David Marshall said the damage to the door did not look like “something that had occurred in the last few minutes” as a result of the fight.
The court heard how Kenth and business partner Peter Chungh bought two properties in St Mary’s Road in the early 1990s with plans to make one property.
Although those plans did not come to fruition, Southampton City Council would pay housing benefit for occupants to the business partners.
Kenth’s long-term friend David Nand said in court how Kenth looked after one flat while Mr Chungh owned another.
But Mr Chungh was diagnosed with dementia in 2007 and power of attorney given to his children a year later. He died in August 2011.
Prosecuting, Klentiana Mahnwtaz said council documents showed Kenth as licensee of the building until 2010, and the court heard handymen were asked by Kenth to work on the property after the May 1 incident.
Francesca Lewington, defending Kenth, said her client disputed responsibility for maintenance of his flat after Mr Chungh’s death, believing control of the property was with Mr Chungh’s daughter.
She added: “He came to this country from Kenya and worked at a bakery and ran several jobs at once to get into this position.
“As well as running a post office, he is involved in charitable work, is involved in the Sikh temple and a director of the regeneration project in St Mary’s.”
Judge Callaway said: “This is a serious breach.”
Kenth was cleared of charges that a prohibition notice placed on his flat by the fire service on May 1, 2011, was breached twice. Afterwards he told the Daily Echo: “I strongly believe I am not guilty. “I have not done anything wrong.”