Two landlords from Leatherhead were prosecuted and fined after a 13-year-old boy died following a fire at a house in Croydon last year.

At Croydon Magistrates’ Court today (Monday 27 January), landlords Innocent and Clementia Mukarati, of Hatherwood, Leatherhead, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to license the property in Camden Gardens under section 95 of the Housing Act 2004.

The judge ordered the pair to pay a total of £14,858 for illegally renting out an unlicensed house without working smoke alarms.

The property was home to the Matope family home in Thornton Heath.

Fire broke out at the house on March 25, 2019.

The court was told that the illegally-let house did not have a Croydon Council landlord licence, which includes fire safety checks.

Firefighters attended the scene, but 13-year-old Kuzi Matope later died in hospital on April 2.

The cause of Kuzi’s death has yet to be determined at an inquest, but Croydon Council pointed out that neither of the two smoke alarms found at the house worked.

Ordering the married couple to each pay a £787.50 fine, a £78 victim surcharge and £6,563.42 in court costs, or £14,858.84 in total, District Judge Nicholas Easterman sent his condolences to the Matope family, adding that the case was about a failure to license the property and that he could not consider the fire.

"The licensing scheme was introduced by Croydon some time ago to improve the quality of rented premises in the borough," he said.

"The council has done what it could appropriately to bring the scheme to the attention of landlords.

"Where people rent out property – whether commercial or otherwise – it is incumbent on them to find out what the regulations are.

“It is clear that the smoke alarms were not working; it is not possible to know how long for.

"Had the defendants known of the licensing provisions they might have been more active in the care taken over these sorts of matters.

"This did not have a material effect on the tragic events which unfolded," the judge added.

Croydon Council said they were adding the Mukaratis to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord database.

Croydon Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services, offered her thoughts to the Matope family and said that she hoped the prosecution would serve as a warning to other landlords in the future.

Kuzi’s father, Patrick Matope, said: “It is heart-breaking to look back. Kuzivakwashe was a son we loved so much; we miss him every day.

"He was a very kind, happy, loving, active, well-behaved son who loved going to church.

"He loved his two younger brothers so dearly and they both miss him too.

“It’s good that the council has come up with this scheme as we think it ensures that landlords take their responsibility seriously and we would encourage private tenants to check if their property is on the register."