A LANDLORD has been fined after she pleaded guilty to failing to safely maintain a potential firetrap property in Middlesbrough.

Sharon Li Ping appeared before Teesside Magistrates' Court charged with breaching ten safety regulations at the six-flat building she runs in Middlesbrough.

The court heard that the converted house in Southfield Road, is regularly occupied by vulnerable people with mental health or drink-related problems.

Li Ping, 41, admitted seven charges, including failing to fit self-closing devices on fire doors in two of the flats and failing to maintain the property properly, despite being given three years to sort out the problems.

The three remaining charges, of failure to ensure a fire escape, failure to maintain a shared bathroom and a stair carpet, were dismissed after Middlesbrough Council withdrew its evidence.

James Fenny, in mitigation, told the hearing his client had faced severe personal problems in recent months and had difficulties with her regular building firm.

He said a recent marriage split had left her running the business on her own with the result that essential jobs had not been carried out.

"She did try to do her best in difficult circumstances, but she took her eye off the ball only for things to get worse," he said. "There are vulnerable people there and that creates problems in itself. It can create a lot of problems for landlords to control their premises."

Mike Caveney, for Middlesbrough Council, said the property had been re-inspected in May this year after Li Ping had been previously warned about its condition.

The council had originally visited the flats in 2002 and worked out a programme of essential repairs. Council housing inspectors then extended the period of time to allow her to finance the repairs, he said.

Bench chairman John Smith sympathised with Li Ping's personal circumstances, but said people's lives could have been jeopardised.

He said: "There was potential harm to residents through fire risks. It is more serious because there were vulnerable adults staying in the property and due to the long time period from 2002 up to 2005."

Li Ping was fined £1,900 and ordered to pay £550 in court costs.