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Retired agent put vulnerable tenant's life at risk, says court

A retired estate agent has pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching fire safety in Devon.

Retired Force and Sons agent David Force, from Dawlish, was ordered by Newton Abbot Magistrates Court on charges relating  to his property which is used as commercial businesses on the ground floor with a privately let flat above.

In 2021, officers from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service raised concerns with Force for unsafe practices such as a lack of suitable means of escape in case of fire, structural failures and the absence of a fire risk assessment.


The officers took the decision that the premises were dangerous to the person who lived in the flat, and with immediate effect, they couldn’t stay there anymore. This was because if a fire were to occur on the ground floor the person in the flat above would not be able to make their escape safely. 

The person in the flat was also considered to be vulnerable as they were elderly with additional disabilities.

Following the investigation, the fire service made the decision to take Force to court. 

The investigation found that Force had known that the premises did not have adequate means of escape in case of fire back in 2009. 

He had never made an application for the works despite the need to do so. Despite this, he continued to take rent from a vulnerable person for a number of years despite knowing that the flat was unsafe to occupy.

Force pleaded guilty to all three charges from Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) including compartmentation, fire separation failures between the businesses and the flat; not having completed a fire risk assessment for the premises; and failing to provide suitable means of escape in case of fire from the flat.

The fines awarded were the maximum allowed under the sentencing rules. They would have been higher but the defence barrister informed the Magistrates that the weekly income of Force was £389.24.

Force was also ordered to pay the full prosecution costs of £8659.00 and a victim's surcharge of £190.

  • icon

    How old was the retired estate agent ?


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