A family could have died in a blaze in a rented house after the landlord broke fire regulations.

The property on Clarence Street in Morecambe.
The property on Clarence Street in Morecambe.
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A family could have died in a blaze in a rented house after the landlord broke fire regulations.

The family of eight, including a four-year-old boy, had to cover the child in a blanket to protect against the smoke and escape to safety after a fire started in the property on Clarence Street in Morecambe owned by landlord Graham Sawings, a district judge heard.

At Blackpool Magistrates Court, District Judge Edward Barr told Sawings, 41, of Normoss Avenue, Blackpool: “There could have been a far more serious ending in particular for the family on the top floor-they could have died.”

The breaches of the regulations were only discovered when the property did catch fire.

The fire extinguisher had not been checked for six years and a “fault” light was being displayed on the fire alarm panel.

The judge sent Sawings for sentence at Preston Crown Court saying his powers of punishment at Blackpool Magistrates Court were not sufficient.

Sawings pleaded guilty to ten breaches of fire regulations at the house of multiple occupation on Clarence Street, Morecambe.

The charges said he put the residents in danger of serious injury or loss of life.

They included problems with the fire alarm, fire safety plans, risk assessments, fire fighting equipment,self closing doors and emergency lighting.

Warren Spencer, prosecuting for the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service told the court that the building comprised four floors including a basement area.

There were tenants in flats in each of the three upper floors including a family on the top floor.

Last year a fire broke out in the middle floor caused by a chip pan.

He said: “The family on the top floor were alerted and found their exit full of smoke. They had to bring their child down covered in a blanket through the smoke and then raised the alarm getting other residents out.”

The prosecutor said firemen put out the fire and then started an investigation which revealed the safety problems.

The property had been in the hands of a management company but when it was bought by Sawings he took over the role himself.

In interview Sawings accepted responsibility.

Allan Cobain, defending, said: “Quite frankly my client bit off more than he could chew when he bought the property for £136,000.

“He had to pay a £950 a month mortgage on it and it raised £1,100 a month rent. There were problems with tenants including the man on the middle floor who was a drinker and who took off the self closing device on his own door because he did not like it.

“Mr Sawings was living more than forty miles away from the house and did not attend it as often as he should.”

A spokesperson for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: “On July 12, 2012, a serious fire occurred at Mr Sawings’ property at 10.17pm.

“Firefighters searched the building to ensure it had been fully evacuated, as the fire alarm system had failed to operate.

“The residents had to make their own escape through the smoke that was issuing from flat 2 as their means of escape had been affected by the fire.

“A subsequent investigation identified a number of fire safety breaches and found that the lack of suitable fire safety precautions seriously prejudiced the safety of these residents.

“The omission of these precautions had the potential to cause death or serious injury to the occupant of flat 2 and eight family members and friends living and visiting flat 3.

“Fortunately, the fire occurred at a time when occupants were not sleeping, should this incident have occurred in the early hours of the morning there would have been a potential loss of life.”