By Chris Young LDRS
The boss of a Shipley car wash has been told that he “put lives at risk” by allowing staff to live at the business.
Ahmed Mahmoud Hussain runs Pit Stop car wash on Valley Road, and appeared at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court on Tuesday over a charge that he allowed the site to be used as sub standard, unsafe housing.
Magistrates told him the case was a “very serious matter.”
Housing officers at Bradford Council had received a tip off last summer that a number of people were living at the car wash.
Business owner Hussain, of Wharncliffe Road, had originally been handed an Emergency Prohibition Order in March 2015, preventing the 159 Valley Road car wash building to be used for habitation due to the risk of fire.
A public tip off last July claimed people were once again living at the property, leading to the Council’s housing standards team getting involved.
They joined HMRC, Police, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and Fire Service in a multi-agency operation to inspect the business.
When they visited the building on July 25 2019 they found a “filthy” kitchen area and other facilities that were in a poor state of repair.
There was a “makeshift” rat trap – consisting of a plank of wood leading up to a bucket of water, a strong odour of chemicals and poor ventilation.
A hob and cooking utensils were located just inches from gas canisters and smoke alarms had been dismantled.
In a first floor room there were beds with photos next to them and plugged in mobile phone chargers, indicating people were sleeping in the car wash.
A follow up visit in August once again found people living there.
He was charged with failing to comply with a housing prohibition order.
The case had originally been heard at the court on March 20, when he was fined £5,380. Hussain had not appeared at that hearing, and was found guilty in his absence.
However, he had asked for the case to be re-opened.
The court heard that in March – early into the Covid crisis, Hussain was self isolating after being in contact with someone who had arrived from abroad.
His lawyer was also dealing with a family health issue. However, a communication mix up meant the court was not aware of this, leading to the case going ahead in Hussain’s absence.
On Tuesday, after hearing this, Magistrates agreed to re-open the case. Hussain pleaded guilty to the charge.
Mrs Khan, representing Hussain, told the court he had owned the business since 2009. She said: “He accepts that an order was in place and that he was aware of it.
“He has limited English and hasn’t understood the severity of it.”
She told Magistrates that he sub-let the car wash from another company, and had been attempting to get them to make much needed improvements to the building.
Mrs Khan added: “He has tried his best in relation to this premises. This year income has been limited because of Covid. The income hasn’t matched the costs going out.”
Presiding judge Justice Paul Broomhead said: “The offences for which you appear before the court are extremely serious, as lives were put at risk.”
Hussain was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a surcharge of £138 and costs of £473. In total he has to pay £5,654 – slightly less than the total of £5,934 he was ordered to pay in March.