Cheap, unsafe housing put lives at risk: QFES
UPDATE: Budget accommodation providers are on notice to ensure their facilities meet strict fire codes after a Gatton woman was fined $50,000 for 40 code breaches today.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katrina Carroll said the QFES took fire safety compliance at all budget accommodation operations including backpacker hostels, boarding houses and pubs "very seriously, to ensure the well-being of its occupants".
Gatton woman Mayla Patterson was today fined $50,000 and narrowly avoided serving jail time after pleading guilty to the offences in Toowoomba Magistrates Court this morning.
"QFES conducts regular inspections of budget accommodation buildings across Queensland to confirm they have compliant fire safety protocols and the facilities operated by Ms Patterson were unacceptable," Ms Carroll said.
"If a fire had started in one of these buildings, our officers were concerned that people residing there may not have escaped due to the negligence of fire safety requirements."
The breaches were identified by QFES safety assessment officers during routine inspections in 2016 and 2017.
"This result sends a clear message to others out there across Queensland who operate budget accommodation for profit and do not make fire safety a priority for its tenants," Ms Carroll said.
"It is foolish for budget accommodation providers to ignore required fire safety legislation and put people's lives in danger.
"I would like to commend the work of our QFES officers who take appropriate enforcement action to stop illegal and unsafe budget accommodation operations, or provide advice to operators on installation and maintenance of required, legislated fire safety measures.
"QFES will continue to work to ensure the safety of persons living in shared accommodation and will continue to work with relevant authorities to ensure illegal budget accommodation owners are held to account."
EARLIER: A Gatton woman who provided unsafe backpacker accommodation to overseas workers has been fined and narrowly avoided serving time in jail.
Mayla Patterson, 50, this morning pleaded guilty to 40 breaches of the Fire Safety Act relating to seven boarding houses she operated in the Gatton area.
The Toowoomba Magistrates Court heard Patterson had failed to adequately display emergency exit diagrams and alarms at the hostels which could house a certain number of boarders.
Some houses were able to accommodate six people, and up to 12 people, at a time, the court heard.
It was Patterson's third time before the courts on similar offending relating to providing accommodation which was found to be non-compliant with fire safety standards.
Magistrate Catherine Pirie fined Patterson $50,000 for all offences, and sentenced her to three months in jail, wholly suspended for four years.
Patterson was also ordered to pay $2000 in legal costs.