A LANDLORD has been ordered to pay more than £44,000 after a prosecution found that he put his tenants' lives in danger by violating safety regulations.

South Gloucestershire Council’s private sector housing team brought the case against Giuseppe Sutera, also known as Joe, who owned the 'dangerous’ property in Eagle Drive in Patchway.

When council officers inspected the Patchway property in August last year they found the building fell below acceptable safety standards and there was a serious fire safety risk.

SGC say there was the potential for "serious injury or death" to the occupants due to there being no safe escape route in the event of a fire. 

Other issues included the shared kitchen being in the middle of the property's main escape route, the absence of fire doors in any of the bedrooms, and the absence of working smoke alarms.

The secondary escape route was in a bedroom with a makeshift kitchenette in the porch, effectively blocking access to that escape route as well.

On October 25 last year, two notices were issued: an Emergency Prohibition Order under the Housing Act 2004 and a requisition for information, under the Local Government Act 1974. 

The EPO required Sutera to ensure that the property was not occupied until the fire risk was removed. 

While the second notice was served to establish ownership and to identify those people with an interest in the property and their home addresses. 

However, Sutera continued to let the property, putting his tenants’ lives at risk. 

SGC officers discovered that not only were existing tenants still living in the property, but Sutera had also set up new tenancies and new tenants had moved in since the EPO was served.

Sutera attended Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Monday, June 26 but he refused to identify himself stating only that he was “a man” and that Joe Sutera was “lost at sea”. 

As he had not properly identified himself the court decided that Joe Sutera was not in fact present, and he was found guilty in his absence.

He was ordered to pay £20,000 for breaching the EPO order and £17,500 for failing to respond to the requisition for information notice. 

He was also ordered to pay £4,770.26 of costs and a victim surcharge of £2,000.

The total amount he was ordered to pay was £44,270.26.

The council's housing team say they are “aware” of at least eight other properties which Sutera owns within South Gloucestershire and will continue to investigate these properties to ensure the safety of the tenants. 

Councillor Leigh Ingham, cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “South Gloucestershire has approximately 17,000 privately rented properties, and we will not tolerate landlords failing to meet their legal responsibilities in relation to the conditions of the homes they offer for rent.

“Our Private Sector Housing team always try to work with landlords to bring their properties up to standard, but where this informal approach fails, we will look to take enforcement action. 

“The level of the fine in this case serves as a serious warning to all landlords that they have a legal responsibility to protect their tenants and provide a safe and decent property for them to live in, and if they fail to do this, the council will take action.”

According to Bristol City Council, Sutera owns a further four licenced houses in multiple occupation in the Bristol local authority area.

Tenants of privately rented properties in the South Gloucestershire area can report issues of disrepair that are not being addressed by their landlord by contacting South Gloucestershire Council’s Private Sector Housing team by emailing psechousing@southglos.gov.uk or visiting their local One Stop Shop.