Those of us living in Norwich who work in property, all know about Mr Mike Billings. He is one of the biggest landlords in Norwich, letting mainly to the lower end of the market, with properties of variable standards of repair and safety.
I once lived in a Billings flat myself, when I first came to Norwich. I was lucky, my flat (or large room really) was reasonably good and I had no trouble. I heard complaints from others in the building though who were less fortunate.
Over the years Mr Billings has had many ups and downs. In the early 1990’s he nearly went bust and was only able to continue with the assistance of an insolvency expert. There have been numerous prosecutions and court actions. The Norwich Evening News lists the following in their articles:
- In 1997 Norwich City Council tried (unsuccessfully) to close down some controversial bed and breakfast accommodation
- In 1994 he was fined £3,300 for wedging open fire doors in one of his hotels
- In 1997 he was fined £400 for not servicing a gas water heater
- In 1998 he was fined £6,000 for flouting gas appliance guidelines
- In 2002 one of his tenants returned home to find his possessions piled up outside with a notice saying ‘everything free’
The current prosecution is extremely serious. It seems that Billings’ casual attitude to health and safety regulations has resulted in a fire in four terraced houses in Magdalen Road in Norwich. A young female tenant suffered horrific 80% burns and is lucky to be alive. In the prosecution brought by the Norfolk Fire Service and the Health and Safety Executive, Billings admitted 14 offences of breaching safety and putting his tenants at risk.
For example he:
- Failed to take general fire precautions
- Failed to ensure that the premises were fitted with the appropriate fire fighting equipment, detectors and alarms
- Failed to comply with the requirement that flats could be evacuated quickly and safely, and
- Flouted gas appliance guidelines, putting his tenants at risk
The Eastern Daily Press /Evening News consider that he may well receive a custodial sentence, although we will not know until after 7 May as sentencing has been adjourned until then, for reports.
If Billings does go to jail, many in Norwich will think that this is no more than he deserves.