A FATHER of two was killed in a house fire after a previous tenant turned off the alarm system so they could smoke, a court heard.

Landlord Andrew Tunstall was fined £1,500 at Bolton Magistrates Court, following the death of 49-year-old Stephen Billington in a blaze at a first floor flat in Bradford Avenue, Great Lever, in March last year.

Tunstall, aged 59, pleaded guilty to nine offences under the Housing Act 2004, including that fire alarms were not kept in good working order.

At the time, police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Billington's death. The blaze was thought to have been caused by a faulty gas fire.

But following an investigation by Bolton Council officers and the fire service, it emerged that the fire detection system was not working because the power supply running the system had been switched off.

During the hearing, the court was told that there was no suggestion that Tunstall had turned it off himself, but that it represented a lack of management.

It is understood that the system had been switched off by a previous tenant, to allow them to smoke in the house without the alarm sounding.

A back-up system powered by batteries was in place which could keep the system running for a number of hours, but the batteries would soon run out.

In addition to failures with the fire detection system, Tunstall admitted not servicing a fire extinguisher and not having a fire blanket in the flat.

Catherine Waudby, prosecuting on behalf of Bolton Council, told the court: "During the inspection a number of contravention of the regulations were noted in both the common parts and the flats.

"Whilst it is appreciated that some of these will have been caused by tenants or visitors, the number of issues identified at the property, particularly those relating to fire safety, clearly suggests that the level of management was not to a satisfactory standard and had resulted in a number of contraventions."

Tunstall, of Riefield, Smithills, also admitted not organising a gas inspection since December, 2014, not displaying his contact details in a prominent place in the house and not keeping the stairs of the house in good working order, all of which are offences under the Housing Act.

Bolton magistrates fined Tunstall £100 fines for three offences for those three offences, and £200 each in relation to the lack of fire fighting equipment, fire alarms, smoke detectors, absence of fire blanket and no testing of electrical installations.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £1,424.

An inquest into Mr Billington's death will be held on June 27, and is expected to last a week.

He is thought to have had two children from a previous relationship with a woman called Joanne, who has also since died.

The house contains nine self-contained flats, which were converted from two adjoining properties in 1977. Tunstall has owned and operated them since 1998.

The court heard that Tunstall had suffered from ill health up to the end of January last year.