Three people including two children, were were discovered sleeping in cupboards in dire and overcrowded accommodation behind a Premier store in Bristol, a court was told.
Remarkably, a total of nine people were found living in two tiny living spaces inside the shop building by shocked housing inspectors.
The man who owned the shop and was the tenants’ landlord, was found guilty of renting out accommodation that was of such poor quality it ‘posed a serious risk to life’.
Housing chief Paul Smith told Bristol Live it was ‘‘some of the worst conditions’ that environmental health officers working in this field had ever seen.
Deepak Singh Sachdeva who owned the Premier store in Avonmouth Road, Avonmouth, did not turn up to court and was found guilty of a host of offences under both the Housing Act 2004 and the 2007 Houses in Multiple Occupation Act.
When council environmental health officers visited the property they found three of the nine people living there were sleeping in cupboards in the eaves of the roof, including two children.
A pregnant woman was also among the nine people crammed into the two living spaces secretly built and converted inside the back of the shop unit.
The living accommodation was above the shop’s rear storage area, and the court heard it was found to be ‘of poor structural condition and design, posing serious risk to life due to inadequate fire separation and precautions’.
A council spokesperson, said: “There was very poor fire resistant separation between the shop store and the flat above, with the floorboards of the living accommodation clearly visible from the storage area immediately below.
“Other property defects included large gaps around fire doors, offering no protection from potential fire or smoke hazards. There was no working fire detection in place prior to emergency smoke detectors being fitted by the council.
“One of the studio flats also lacked basic ventilation, with no external windows and limited access via a poorly maintained staircase.”
Singh Sashdeva, who lives in Surbiton in Surrey, was ordered to pay £87,000 in fine, and with costs and a victim fund surcharge, he will have to pay £88,634.
“The magistrates felt that the high penalty reflected the money made from the tenants, given the severity of complete disregard for the safety of tenants, particularly children and the serious risk to life the property posed,” the council spokesperson added.
“These were some of the worst conditions environmental health officers working in this field have seen,” said the council’s cabinet member for housing, Cllr Paul Smith.
“The property had been so badly built and managed that the tenants were constantly in serious danger.
“The risk was so severe that the council had little option but to formally order people not to live in the accommodation.
“This case is a prime example of a rogue landlord who has put the safety and welfare of tenants at risk and has been rightly convicted and fined for this.
“We are committed to investigating substandard accommodation and bringing landlords or agents that profit illegally from it to justice,” he added.