A Gatton woman has been convicted and fined more than $60,000 for operating illegal and unsafe budget accommodation in the Lockyer Valley.

Mayla Patterson pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to two counts of failing to display signs in accommodation units, five counts of failing to maintain prescribed fire safety installations and two counts of failing to prepare a fire safety management plan within one year. 

Offences included failing to install the required smoke alarm systems, emergency lighting, fire safety management plans, evacuation signage and compliant door hardware. 

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) took legal action against Ms Patterson after discovering unsafe building practices at her Gatton and Atkinsons Dam properties, which were used to house backpackers working in the fruit picking industry. 

Ms Patterson was previously prosecuted by QFES in 2013, 2015 and 2017 for similar offences and fined a total of $75,000 at the time. She also previously received a three-month jail term wholly suspended for three years. 

In sentencing, Magistrate John Smith observed that budget accommodation typically held a higher fire safety risk and noted the offence exposed the backpackers living in the accommodation to danger. Ms Patterson was fined $65,000. 

QFES Commissioner Greg Leach welcomed the court’s decision and warned budget accommodation providers of their obligations to abide by the law and of their duty to the safety of the occupants.

“QFES regularly inspects illegal and unsafe budget accommodation, and actively pursues providers who put occupants lives at risk,” Mr Leach said. 

“Providers are expected to meet high safety standards, and QFES tries to work with owners to help them meet their obligations. 

“However, blatant contempt for the safety of occupants will not be tolerated and any provider choosing to disregard the law will be pursued by QFES. 

“Importantly, QFES acts on information received to conduct surveillance and unannounced checks of unapproved buildings, so it is vital that members of the public are reporting any reasonable concerns.”

For more information about fire safety in budget accommodation buildings, visit qfes.qld.gov.au/buildingsafety.