Glasgow & West Scotland

'Death trap' landlord had no licence

Harpal Singh
Image caption Harpal Singh was caught renting out 14 unsafe properties while unlicensed

The father of a student who died in a Glasgow flat fire in 1999 says he was appalled to learn his son's landlord had failed to learn from the tragedy.

James Fraser, 20, was unable to escape as there were metal bars on the windows of the basement property, which a sheriff later branded a "death trap".

The blaze also claimed the life of 20-year-old Daniel Heron.

Landlord Harpal Singh has now been caught renting out a further 14 unsafe properties while unlicensed.

Mr Fraser's father, Sandy, said he was "horrified" that Singh had apparently not learned any of the lessons from the tragedy that claimed his son's life.

Glasgow City Council inspectors found the latest properties all lacked basic fire safety measures, and placed six under closure orders.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption James Fraser died in the fire in March 1999

The council had been building a case against Singh, who was previously jailed for perjury following the fatal fire, since he applied to become a landlord again in 2013.

A catalogue of dangers was exposed in a report following a visit by inspectors to his properties last November, including a lack of smoke alarms, no carbon monoxide alarms, damaged floors, damp, windows that do not open, a leaking boiler, no window vents and cracked windows.

Singh, 64, previously hit the headlines after the deaths of Mr Fraser and Mr Heron, who were killed after a fire swept through their basement flat on Melrose Street in the Woodlands area on 4 March, 1999..

Their flatmate Christopher Lewis, 20, was pulled from the building by firefighters and survived.

Metal bars

A sheriff ruled the young men would likely have all lived if there had been a working smoke alarm and if they were not sealed into the house with metal bars over the windows.

Singh was subsequently jailed for 30 months for lying under oath to the Fatal Accident Inquiry about the property having a working smoke detector.

Fire officers had found the smoke alarm had no batteries, was dismantled, not fixed to a wall and not in proper working order.

As a result of the deaths special laws governing houses in multiple occupation (HMO) were introduced in 2000.

Image caption The students were unable to escape as there were bars on the windows

Mr Fraser said: "We hoped after James and Daniel's accident that he would have changed his ways, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

"Some good has come out of the incident, with changes to HMO, but to see Harpal Singh has still been operating is very, very worrying.

"I am very pleased Glasgow City Council officers have investigated him thoroughly and councillors have rejected his bid to become a landlord again."

Catalogue of failures

Mr Fraser said he lives with the impact of Singh's recklessness on a daily basis.

He said: "After an accident like that, you lose your son, you have to just get on with life.

"But without a shadow of a doubt, there isn't a day that goes by I don't think about James and what he'd be doing.

"I speak for his mother, brothers and sisters there as well."

Image caption The flat was branded a "death trap" by a sheriff
Image caption Fire officers found that the smoke alarm in the flat was not working before the fatal fire broke out

Singh had been renting out his most recent properties as HMOs while unlicensed and had accumulated an unpaid council tax bill of £150,000.

Councillors on the Licensing and Regulatory Committee last week condemned his record and banned him from becoming a registered landlord.

He could now face a £50,000 fine, and the current occupants of his flats have been advised of their rights.

A city council spokesman said: "Officers from the Landlord Registration Unit have worked extremely hard to gather the evidence that has led to this decision.

"We are pleased that the members of the committee found that the applicant is not a fit and proper person to be a landlord."

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