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Unlicensed HMO owner told to pay more than £58,000

The owner of a former Boston pub accused in court of putting tenants in danger has been ordered to pay more than £58,000.

Paul Turner had denied 28 charges relating to the former Ship Inn in London Road, Boston. He was found guilty at Boston Magistrates' Court on Monday, February 20, on 17 counts. Eight charges were withdrawn and he was found not guilty of three others. He was fined a total of £47,000 and ordered to pay £11,313.19 costs. He was also told to pay a £120 victim surcharge. He immediately lodged an appeal against both conviction and sentence.

He had faced seven counts of fire safety where failures risked death or injury and a further 15 charges of failing to comply with regulations in respect of housing in multiple occupancy (HMO), including one of managing or operating an HMO without a licence.

The court heard a hole had been cut in a ceiling for cables to run into a room below to provide electricity for cooking. A lack of sockets in the property led to multiple use of extension sockets with multiple extension cables trailing over shared landings and passageways. Tenants had cooking equipment in their rooms.

The court was told that a washing machine was unsafe and there was defective drainage, no handrails on stairs and the cooker was dirty and in disrepair. There was also damaged lights and a fire exit route blocked by a fridge freezer.

Turner said he was not running a house in multiple occupation, but a hotel with paying guests.

Ruth Bala, prosecuting for Boston Borough Council, said: "The person staying in room eight lived three minutes away. Does it not seem strange that he would want to stay at a hotel just minutes from his home?"

The court heard Turner had no licence to operate an HMO.

Miss Bala said there were 18 people, including children as young as one-year-old, staying at the property on or around the date that police, fire services and the council visited on February 16 , 2016. Construction work was underway on the ground floor of the three storey building to convert it into smaller rooms in preparation for it to be converted into a hotel.

Graham Almack, a fire safety officer, said trailing cables were a trip hazard, stairs to the ground floor was poorly lit and he had to bring in lamps to be able to see.

He said: "It is my understanding the fire exit door blocked by the freezer chest was screwed shut.

"I was satisfied there was a serious and imminent risk of fire and the prohibition notice was served."