Luxury Airbnb party house owner puts vacationers at risk of fire

An arrogant Airbnb owner has been ordered to pay nearly £ 33,000 in fines and fees after putting dozens of guests at risk of fire at a luxury party house in Torquay.

Wealthy businessman Adrian Knott continued to rent the house, which has its own pool and spa, to 23 visitors at a time for £ 4,000 a weekend, even though he knew it was unsafe.

He foiled attempts by the fire departments to inspect the Lincombe Drive home because he knew they would close it and lose valuable reservations.

Knott, 50, runs his own mortgage brokerage in London and Torquay and is a former Conservative Party campaign organizer. He owns other properties in the South West.

He rented Woodd Seaside Villa to large groups for weekend parties, even after a report he commissioned described his condition as intolerable.

Knott promised the firefighters he would stop letting the house out until they inspect it, but when security officers carried out a spot check in July 2018, they found a group of 15 people there. were staying.

They had an hour to pack and leave and had to continue their party weekend at a hastily booked hotel.

The house, valued at £ 1.25million, has since been secured with extensive work to install a locking alarm system and create escape routes and fire doors.

It’s in two parts that were often rented together for stag and hen parties and on one occasion up to 20 medical students who planned to spend a weekend celebrating their graduation.

Knott, 50, who lived in another part of the house, admitted four counts of failing to follow safety rules.

He was fined £ 24,000 and costs £ 9,218 and was sentenced to 160 hours of unpaid community service by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

He told her, “You have flagrantly endangered the safety of many members of the public. Your desire to make money has taken precedence over your legal obligation to your customers to protect them.

“You have not implemented the most basic fire safety measures. In my opinion, you have thwarted the attempts to inspect the firefighters in order to be able to rake in significant sums.

“You continued to authorize the use of the property. It is said on your behalf that it was out of misplaced loyalty to your clients. I see this as misplaced loyalty to your bank balance.

“Even when you knew the danger, you allowed it to be used in violation of a commitment you made to the firefighters. What I see as your arrogance continued when in November you wrote to say that ‘it was not in the public interest to take the matter any further. “

Mr David Sapiecha, prosecutor for the fire department, said in an earlier hearing that Knott and his wife had owned the apartments in Woodend for some time, but only started renting them out on airbnb and other websites. only in August 2017.

The council told them that meant their fire safety was now overseen by the fire department, who asked them to commission a risk assessment and attempted to arrange an inspection.

Mr Sapiecha said Knott made excuses to delay the firefighters’ visit, telling officers he was overseas or having a family celebration.

It had its own assessment carried out in June 2018, which qualified the security provisions as intolerable and highlighted problems with doors and partitions for fire-retardant rooms, detectors, alarms and escape routes.

Firefighters told her not to rent the house until improvements were made, but on the weekend of July 13, 2018, they were told it was occupied by a group of 15 people.

Mr Sapiecha said: “In fact, there were 14 guests and a blackout notice was issued. The guests had an hour to leave before it went into effect.”

He said there were only three detectors or alarms and they were unrelated. There were no alarms loud enough to wake sleeping guests and no provision to slow down a fire to allow them to exit safely.

There were no proper escape routes, which posed the risk that those trying to escape a fire would get lost in dead ends and panic, especially if the fire broke out at night when people drank alcohol.

Knott refused to give firefighters his list of past and future bookings, saying it would be a violation of GDPR data regulations to do so

Mr Sapiecha said: “This was clearly a building from which substantial income could be generated. It seems to have been a hive of activity and paying guests was a reason for keeping reservations.

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“We say there was an intentional violation and blatant disregard of the law when he came into contact with the fire department.”

Mr David Morgan, defending, said he continued to rent the house because he didn’t want to disappoint customers rather than because he wanted to keep the money.

He said he refunded £ 1,000 to a group and fully reimbursed the group that had been pulled out by firefighters, showing that his main concern was not financial.

He said he did not try to delay the firefighters’ visit but was on vacation in Russia with his wife. There had never been a fire or near miss and no one was injured at any time.

He had already planned to secure the property before the prohibition notice and assured that all work has been done since, at a cost of several tens of thousands of pounds.

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Mr Morgan said Knott had never had any problems before, but his business as a mortgage broker could be affected by the conviction, which could affect his registration with the Financial Conduct Authority.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Services said there had been a number of serious malfunctions at Woodd. Officers believed that in the event of a fire, those in the house would have been at a real risk of death or serious injury.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service Protection Delivery Manager Nick

Jones said: “Mr. Knott blatantly ignored the advice of the fire risk assessor and deliberately misled the fire departments about the use of his premises. He has chosen to put profit before the safety of his guests. This decision could have had serious consequences if a fire had broken out in the premises.

This is not the first time that DSFRS has had to take legal action for serious breaches of fire safety in holiday accommodation.

Nick Jones said: “We take the safety of people who visit and stay in Devon and Somerset very seriously. We believe that while many vacation rental providers are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to fire safety, many other casual vacation rentals may not be aware of what they need to provide to comply with the Order on fire safety.

“When the owners of holiday accommodation do not provide adequate fire safety measures, we will not tolerate it and will take the necessary enforcement measures. “

For more information on making your holiday accommodation compliant, see: http://dsfire.gov.uk/YourSafety/SafetyAtWorkandotherplaces/Adviceforlandlordsandlettingagents/documents/DS2018-2554Self-cateringHolidayLets.pdf

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