Tenants escaping from a fire that ripped through a block of private rented flats sparked a record £250,000 fine.
The blaze broke out in two neighbouring homes in Eccleston Square, Westminster, London.
The six-floored terraced buildings had been converted into flats.
Eight fire engines and 60 firefighters led 13 people to safety from the flats – two from off the roof.
When the blaze was under control, firefighters investigated the cause and found the flats were a potential death trap, a judge at Southwark Crown Court heard.
The second, third and fourth floors of the Victorian properties were badly damaged in the 2011 fire.
Fire safety experts explained that people in the flats faced death or serious injury as doors failed to offer adequate protection from smoke and flames, no fire or smoke alarms were fitted in the buildings and the managers had not made any fire risk assessment.
“The landlord and management company showed utter contempt for the safety of their tenants when they so blatantly ignored the fire safety failures in the building. This was a potentially lethal fire and it was only thanks to the skill and bravery of the crews who rescued the 13 residents trapped inside that no-one died or was seriously injured” said London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner for fire safety Dan Daly.
“The actions of the landlord and management company not only put the lives of the occupants at risk, they put the lives of those firefighters sent to tackle the blaze at risk.”
Landlord Crownpark Investments Ltd and managers City Estates, each pleaded guilty to three fire safety offences.
At their sentencing, the judge said the flats were ‘an accident waiting to happen’.
He fined Crownpark Investments £100,000 with £24,000 costs and City estates £150,000 with £25,500 costs.