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HomeNewsUK NewsLandlords of London flat in fire tragedy plead guilty to criminal charges

Landlords of London flat in fire tragedy plead guilty to criminal charges

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During a brief hearing at Thames Magistrates’ Court in east London, Sofina Begum, 50, and Aminur Rahman, 53, the landlords of an east London flat where a deadly fire occurred in March, pleaded guilty to a total of nine criminal charges.

The fire at 18 Maddocks House in Shadwell led to the tragic death of Mizanur Rahman, a 41-year-old father of two.

The blaze, ignited by an e-bike battery, occurred in the early hours of March 5.

The flat, originally a two-bedroom ex-council flat, housed at least 18 men on the night of the fire, with individuals sharing beds and sleeping on the floor in overcrowded conditions, The Guardian reported.

The residents of the flat, predominantly Bangladeshi men employed locally, had to share a solitary toilet, and reported the property being infested with bedbugs, mould, and filth.

Describing it as “like a prison,” one resident expressed the dire living conditions.

The case was forwarded to the crown court for sentencing, enabling Tower Hamlets council, (responsible for the prosecution), to pursue a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Previous occupants of the flat mentioned paying approximately £90 per week or £25 per night in rent to the married couple, a significant portion of it in cash, suggesting potential yearly earnings exceeding £100,000 from rent.

Residents from the Tarling West Estate in Shadwell, the location of the flat, had previously alerted the council about severe overcrowding in the house.

However, no action was taken before the fire incident. The property was officially registered as a house in multiple occupancy (HMO) in August 2022.

Begum, who was listed on the licence, faced six charges, including allowing unauthorised individuals to reside at the property, lacking a valid gas safety certificate, and the inability to produce essential documents like tenancy agreements and deposit arrangements upon request.

Her husband, Rahman, faced three charges, with prosecutor Jonathan Melnick detailing accusations of aiding and abetting his wife.

According to Land Registry records, the lease to the ex-council flat was purchased for £107,000 in 2005 by Begum.

Anthony Iles, chair of the Tarling West Tenants and Residents Association, said that today, there is a small but relatively rare instance of housing injustice seeing some form of justice.

He highlighted that two landlords, operating on the housing estate for several years, have admitted their guilt, serving as a cautionary example for other landlords in the borough.

He emphasised that while this case signifies a step towards justice, it does not begin to account for the loss of Mizanur Rahman’s life or the suffering of the survivors of the blaze.

Moreover, Iles also said that this legal action fails to address the years of neglect, lack of prior inspection, and irregular repairs by the council on the estate and similar areas in the borough.

In a coroner’s inquest conducted in September, the cause of Mizanur Rahman’s death was determined to be heat and smoke inhalation injuries.

The coroner has urged the government to implement stricter regulations concerning e-bike batteries and chargers, currently unregulated and associated with a string of fatal fires.

The couple, residing in Solander Gardens in Wapping, will be sentenced on January 3 at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

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