TWO landlords appeared in court on Monday accused of flouting fire safety regulations at a house in Chard.

Business partners Alistair Gordon, 53, of Weymouth, and Ralph Richardo, 36, of Dorchester, appeared for sentencing at Yeovil Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to failing to comply with a prohibition notice for 3 Hope Terrace in Combe Street.

The notice, issued by the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, prevented the property from being occupied between September 18 and October 3 last year after it was deemed a safety risk.

However, the court heard how fire officers discovered tenants living in the four-storey building after the ban was in place.

Oliver Carlyon, prosecuting, described how two children were among those found at the premises despite hazards including poorly fitted doors, faulty fire extinguishers and windows without fire-resistant glazing.

Mr Carlyon said: “The children were sleeping on the top floor of 3 Hope Terrace – acc-ording to officers it was the worst place you could possibly be.”

“It seems the defendants were happy to let the rent come in without taking the necessary precautions for fire safety.”

Defence solicitor Lee Christmas rebutted the allegation, claiming Mr Gordon and Mr Richardo, who own 17 properties in total, did not receive payment from tenants during the prohibition period.

He said: “As far as they were concerned the property was unoccupied.

“With the benefit of hindsight they accept that they should have changed the locks and boarded it up.

“These are two men who have spent the past three years helping homeless people.

“They have managed to get over 100 people off the streets and into accommodation.”

Details from another property owned by the pair were also taken into consideration.

Sentencing has been adjourned until January 25, pending a request for further financial information.