Category Archives: Landlord

Buy-to-let tycoon Fergus Wilson facing legal action after admitting he banned ‘coloured’ tenants making his homes ‘stink of curry’

fergus-wilson

Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord Fergus Wilson is facing legal action after defending his policy to direct his letting agents not to let his properties to “coloured” people whom he claimed make his homes “stink of curry”.

Mr Wilson refused to deny making a list of requirements for tenants in an email to a letting agent seen by the Sun newspaper. He did however say that it was “some time ago”.

Wilson, who has previous convictions for assault and who last year failed in a bid to run for the role of Kent’s police and crime commissioner, said the controversy started when he bought a house in Ashford at a discounted price because of a strong smell of curry.

“I said when I bought it that within six months it’d be sorted but we just could not get rid of the bloody smell – it absolutely stank of curry,” he told Kent News.

“The carpets had to come up and the whole job meant throwing £12,000 down the drain.”

Mr Wilson then bought another house nearby but said a mixed-race family left the house smelling of curry at the end of their tenancy.

“It was a case of once bitten, twice shy,” he said.

“Having spent six months on the first one I said ‘no I’ve have enough, I do not want to take on another house where I have to get rid of a curry smell’.

“Yes, I accept not every individual coloured person likes and eats curry but I think a high proportion do and I had to go on probabilities.

“It was done because I did not care to repeat the experiences of before.”

When challenged on the use of language many would find offensive, he responded: “I use the term ‘coloured’ because it’s quicker and easier than saying ‘people from India, people from Africa and people who are Arabic’.

“To anybody who says I’m racist, I’ve just employed a coloured person.”

“Battered-wife” letting ban

This is not the first time Mr Wilson has been in the public eye for discriminating potential tenants. In January he issued letting criteria which banned single mums, battered wives, plumbers and low income earners.

His ban on battered wives came following his attempt to run stand for election for Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner on an anti-domestic violence platform. In the end his candidacy was ruled ineligible by the election officer for his previous assault conviction. Wilson also claimed that if elected he would return illegal immigrants to France the day after they arrive in Kent.

Speaking to the Sun Wilson denied he was a racist saying “To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people. It is a problem with certain types of coloured people – those who consume curry – it sticks to the carpet. You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”

He further claimed that while he doesn’t today employ a specific policy banning “coloureds” he estimates he’s only rented to 14 mixed-race tenants over his two decades in the property business.

“As long as their money is green, we’re happy to have them,” he said.

“But if the same situation happened again tomorrow, I would say the say thing, because I was being practical.”

Discrimination investigation

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said the watchdog would be investigating the comments and warning Wilson that he could face legal action.

“These are truly disgusting remarks as well as being unlawful instructions from a landlord to a letting agent,” she said. “There are still deep inequalities in our society as our race report demonstrated and these comments show why.

“As a country we all assume we have left the dark ages behind, but clearly there is more to be done. We will investigate and will be asking Mr Wilson to explain his actions. Unless we are satisfied that he will not commit unlawful acts in the future we will take legal action”.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord bans ‘coloureds’ from renting his properties because they ‘make them smell of curry’

Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES
Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES

Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord has banned ‘coloureds’ from renting his properties because they make them smell of curry.

In an email to his letting agent Evolution Properties, Fergus Wilson, 70 from Kent said: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy.”

Wilson who is reportedly worth around £100 million is no stranger to controversy.  In January it emerged that he banned “battered wives” from his properties claiming he does not want to risk ex-husbands or boyfriends returning to destroy his houses.

Also included on the list of proscribed tenants were children under 18, single adults, battered wives, tenants without a rent guarantee, people on housing benefit, low income workers, zero hours workers, plumbers, smokers and pet owners.

Wilson, who at one point owned 1,000 homes in Maidstone and Ashford, was unrepentant when challenged about the latest ban.

“To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people.”

“It is a problem with certain types of coloured people — those who consume curry — it sticks to the carpet.

“You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”

While Mr Wilson’s latest policy would not breach criminal law he could be sued in a civil court and has already been chastised by anti-racism group Hope Not Hate.

In December 2014 he banned tenants who shared his surname after several cases of ‘mistaken identity’ led to council tax disputes.

In the same year he sent eviction notices to over 200 of his tenants, many from low income backgrounds, claiming that he was “sending battered wives back to their partners to be beaten up again”.  He was also convicted in the same year for assaulting an estate agent over a broken boiler which he denied, claiming that he was “too fat to punch anybody or even tie his own shoelaces”.

Evolution, which manages hundreds of Wilson’s properties, has also condemned the policy and said it would never implement it. Evolution’s manager, Roy Fever, said: “We don’t condone this at all.

“We would never implement a policy like that. We put through anyone to the landlord and it is up to the landlord who they take on.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Britain’s biggest landlord bans ‘battered wives’ and zero hours workers as tenants

Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES
Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES

Britain’s biggest landlord, Fergus Wilson has banned “battered wives” from his properties claiming he does not want to risk ex-husbands or boyfriends returning to destroy his houses.

Perhaps Britain’s most notorious buy-to-let landlord, Wilson is no stranger to controversy.  In 2014 he sent eviction notices to over 200 of his tenants, many from low income backgrounds, claiming that he was “sending battered wives back to their partners to be beaten up again”.  He was also convicted in the same year for assaulting an estate agent over a broken boiler which he denied, claiming that he was “too fat to punch anybody or even tie his own shoelaces”.

Posted for residents of Ashford (Kent), the list of unacceptable tenants include:

  • Zero hours workers
  • Battered wives
  • Tenants on housing benefits
  • Tenants with children under 18
  • Single parents
  • Plumbers
  • Smokers
  • People with pets
  • Low income workers

Despite Mr and Mrs Wilson’s estimated wealth of £200 million, the couple are known for penny-pinching. In 2014 Fergus Wilson lost a court battle to charge a tenant £3,000 for a broken toilet lid even though the tenant had offered to replace it out of his own pocket. Judith Wilson is also believed to owe £3,000 in court costs after a failed attempt to sue a gas engineer for £5,000. The Wilsons had claimed that the engineer’s decision to issue an “At Risk” notice on gas equipment in one of their properties had made the house unrentable. Such considerations factored into Fergus’ decision to ban plumbers as tenants in his latest letting criteria since he believes they “rip him off” about repairs and “invent” problems with the properties which he says they bill him for.

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Fergus Wilson’s ban of domestic abuse victims comes after the 69-year old’s unsuccessful bid  to stand as an independent candidate for Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner last year which was blocked  for incorrect submission of nomination papers. It was also expected that Wilson’s candidature would be deemed ineligible for a conviction of assault for which he was fined £500. Wilson, who planned to stand as an independent, intended to run on a platform of tackling domestic violence saying that he was particularly concerned by two domestic abuse cases involving Kent Police and would have used his £85,000 salary to fund a rapid-response team of four officers.

Commenting on the tenancy rules Fergus said the criteria are revised every year and are concerned with “financial fine tuning of the business” adding: “it is just economics… I live in the big bad world of reality, if I do not let properties and do not get the rent then I do not eat, I starve to death… it is the Government’s job to help poor people.”

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Buy-to-let landlord group represented by Cherie Blair loses court tax challenge

Cherie Blair Royal Court Justice landlord group

A landlord lobby group represented by Cherie Blair have seen a legal challenge to restrictions on buy-to-let tax relief dismissed at the Royal Courts of Justice today.

The landlord coalition called “Axe the Tenant Tax” was refused permission by a senior judge to seek a judicial review of tax changes announced by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 which are set to be introduced in April 2017. Under the proposed tax changes (Section 24 of the Finance (No 2) Act 2015) individual landlords with mortgages will be required to pay tax on turnover rather than the profit.

Represented by Omnia Strategy LLP,  the law firm  founded chaired by Cherie Blair in 2011, the group claimed that the tax changes were “unlawful, unreasonable and discriminatory” because they did not also apply to corporate landlords.

Mrs. Blair has previously claimed that the proposed tax changes would be challenged since they would “discriminate against landlords according to the European Convention on Human rights.” Speaking during today’s hearing, Mrs. Blair stated that the tax proposals would “unfairly result in cuts in income for ‘hard-working members of the public’ who had bought properties to rent in order to supplement their savings at a time when interest rates were low.”

Mr Justice Dingemans ruled that the legal challenge would fail rejecting claims that the changes would be contrary to EU legislation and anti-discrimination laws.  The judge added that the extent to which corporate bodies should be treated differently to individuals when it came to tax laws “raises political and economic questions, but not in this instance a legal one.”

In response to today’s court defeat, the landlord group remained defiant. In a joint statement lead claimants Steve Bolton, founder of Platinum Property Partners, and fellow landlord Chris Cooper claimed that the extra costs incurred by landlord due to the tax changes would be passed on to tenants through higher rents.

“We are outraged by the court’s decision. It has completely missed the opportunity to protect tenants, landlords and the housing market from the disastrous consequences of Section 24. From April 2017 the negative impact of this previously failed tax experiment from Ireland, where rents increased by 50% over a three year period, will be felt far and wide. Sadly it will be tenants who are hit hardest; they are set to see unprecedented rent increases over the coming months and years, which will be a very clear and direct consequence of this ludicrous legislation.”

Despite the failure of a previous Parliamentary petition and today’s defeat, Mrs. Blair said that the coalition would fight on and “engage with the Government” more directly over the issue.

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Buy-to-let landlord court date set for 6th October

cherie-blair-changes-to-taxes-on-landlords-breach-human-rights

Buy-to-let Landlords taking the government to court to challenge tax relief restrictions will have their hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 6th October.

The group, led by the founder and chairman of Platinum Property Partners, Steve Bolton, and landlord Chris Cooper, seek to overturn former chancellor George Osborne’s decision to restrict the amount of tax relief a landlord will be able to claim on mortgage interest outlined in last year’s summer Budget.

The judicial review of Osborne’s proposals was financed by a crowdfunding campaign which followed a failed parliamentary petition to challenge the proposed tax changes.

Over £100,000 was raised by the pair who hired Omnia Strategy LLP,  the law firm  founded chaired by Cherie Blair in 2011, to act for them. At the landlord conference named the “Tenant Tax Summit” held in June to discuss the case,  Blair claimed that the former Chancellor’s tax changes warrant a judicial review since they “discriminate against landlords according to the European Convention on Human rights.”  Also speaking at the event was the Conservative Life Peer and former MP Lord Howard Flight who had written a letter to the Government “Why the Government is wrong to attack buy-to-let.”

Unless the legal challenge is successful, the government’s tax changes will come into effect in April 2017.

 

 

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Landlords Still Issuing Licenses to Occupy to Evade Deposit Protection Rules

Deposit Protection

Since the entry into force of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme many landlords and letting agents have devised ways of evading and ignoring deposit protection rules.

One common tactic which renters should be aware of is issuing tenants with a “licence to occupy” in place of an “Assured Shorthold Tenancy”.

A licence gives the right to occupy and is typically used for bed and breakfasts, hotels, holiday lets and some HMOs.  Often tenants only discover that a license has been issued when attempting to recover their deposit at the end of their occupation. However, despite being called a license, you may still have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in the eyes of the law. In this event it may be possible to use typical AST measures to recoup moneys owed.

Do I have a License or a Tenancy?

A tenancy is created automatically if someone moves in and starts paying rent. Some landlords incorrectly issue licenses, either through inexperience or design to give tenants less rights than they would usually expect with an AST. A tenancy cannot be turned into a license merely by both parties signing a piece of paper headed ‘license agreement.’  A landmark case which defined the requirements for a tenancy as opposed to a license was Street v. Mountford in 1985. This stated that one has a tenancy if one:

  • pays a rent
  • occupies the property for a term
  • enjoys exclusive possession of land / property

These conditions do not apply if one does not pay rent  or if the occupier does not enjoy exclusive possession such as in a shared room or if cleaning and meals are provided as in a hotel.

The clearest way to identify the difference between the two [license and Assured Shorthold Tenancy] is exclusivity. If a tenant has exclusive use of at least one room in the property, and that room(s) is specified, this will usually be classed as a Tenancy Agreement. If the property is shared with more than one individual, this is more likely to be a Licence.

I believe I have been incorrectly issued with a license and my landlord has not protected my deposit, what should I do?

It may therefore be possible to claim damages from your landlord if they incorrectly issued you with a licence and failed to protect your deposit. According to current deposit protection rules, your landlord must register your deposit in one of the three government-approved deposit protection schemes within 30 days of the start of your tenancy.  The penalty for non-compliance is a fine of between one and three times the deposit amount.

 

 

 

 

 

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Renters Alliance notices increase in fake property rent deposit scam

National Renters Alliance scam alert fake property deposit

The National Renters Alliance has recently noticed an uptick in the incidence of the fake property rent deposit scam and is warning students and foreign nationals to be vigilant when looking for properties.  

The scam which in the past gained notoriety from its association with the listings website Gumtree, works by offering to let properties in prime areas at below market rates and asking for a deposit.  Extreme examples often ask prospective tenants to pay for 6 months or 1 years’ rent in advance to secure the property prior to visiting it.  Payment of large sums of money in advance targets foreign nationals who are frequently required  to pay 6 month’s rent in advance by established letting agents in London and student towns such as Cambridge and Oxford.

In the scam, prospective tenants are convinced to part with either credit card details, cheques or cash before seeing the property which does not exist.  Further ,since the fraudsters leave no legitimate correspondence address it is almost impossible for victims to pursue fraudsters in court.  Other variations include instances where fraudsters do access the property and show around prospective tenants.  The property already be rented or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time.

The National Renters Alliance recommends several measures which tenants can take to help protect themselves from falling victim to this scam.

  1. Never pay money upfront before visiting a property.  Always be suspicious if anybody refuses to let you visit the property before paying a deposit.
  2. Ask to see identification such as a driving license and/or passport from the prospective landlord or letting agent. If you are dealing with a company ask for a correspondence address.
  3. Prospective tenants can also check whether the landlord is a member of the National Landlords Association (NLA) using the NLA accreditation website  www.landlords.org.uk
  4. If you are still a student, you can often uses your student union or accommodation office to check whether a landlord is on an approved housing list.
  5. If dealing with a letting agent check whether the agent is accredited by organization.  Examples of such bodies include the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS),
  6. Use commonsense. If the property looks too good to be true, too cheap for the location then it possibly is.
  7. Before paying a deposit ask the landlord or agent which government-backed deposit scheme is being used.  Currently there are three: mydeposit, The Dispute Service (TDS), The Deposit Protection Service (TDPS).
  8. If the property is shared ask the current occupants how they found the property and how they pay their rent. If the landlord or agent collects only cash or regularly changes bank accounts this should warrant further vigilance.
  9. If possible use a credit card to pay for a deposit after the letting agreement has been signed. Be wary if you are asked to transfer money via money transfer agents such as Western Union or Money Gram. Only use these services to send money to people you already know and trust.
  10. Always check the legitimacy of an advert.  This is especially true for a non-property website such as Gumtree, Avoid adverts with no photographs or ones with photographs used on multiple adverts.

 

 

 

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Letting Agent MP Backs Buy-To-Let Capital Gains Tax Cut

hollinrake

The founder of the Hunters Estate agency and Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake has backed a campaign by the  Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) to reduce Capital Gains Tax paid by landlords when selling their rented home to sitting tenants.

The proposal involves an amendment to the Finance Bill currently before Parliament. Currently Clause 72 of the Bill  seeks to reduce Capital Gains Tax from 28 per cent to 20 per cent except for the sale of residential property where the rate will remain unchanged.

According to the RLA, Hollinrake is tabling an amendment to the Bill which will extend the tax cut to private landlords selling a rental property to a sitting tenant.  “Given the recent attack on the Private Rented Sector by Chancellor George Osborne…more and more landlords will want to exit the market as renting [sic] becomes financially unsustainable for them” the RLA said.

The RLA further purports that 77 per cent of private landlords would consider selling their property to tenants if the tax liability were reduced.

Hollinrake claims that the amendment will support the government’s wider home ownership agenda while at the same time offering landlords a route out of the sector minimizing their financial hit.  According to the RLA, the amendment  includes safeguards to prevent such a tax change being abused.

 

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Britain’s Biggest Landlord Feels Brexit Pinch

fergus-wilson

Britain’s biggest landlord Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith Wilson have been caught up in the rout of the British Housing sector following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union last Thursday.

The Wilsons who aggressively built a property portfolio since the early nineties, have been trying to sell their £250 million property portfolio of around 900 houses to a collection of foreign buyers and wealthy individuals. However, the Daily Telegraph claimed that Mr Wilson is seeing the cancellation of many sales following Thursday’s Brexit vote.

The Wilsons are perhaps models for Britain’s buy-to-let frenzy and are no strangers to controversy. In 2009, Judith Wilson saw a court case thrown out by a judge for demanding £3,000 for a new bathroom suite from a tenant who had damaged a cistern lid which the tenant offered to replace. In a written judgment, Judge Christopher Cagney branded the claim “exaggerated”, and said he “had doubts” that work to replace the bathroom suite would ever be carried out. Mr Wilson was also found guilty in 2014 of assaulting an estate agent when a boiler in one of his properties failed to work despite a court plea that he was “too fat to hit anyone”. Earlier in January of that year Wilson sent eviction notices to every tenant that received housing benefit saying he had lost around £800,000 because of them.

Undeterred by the market turmoil caused by the Brexit vote, Mr Wilson claims that buy-to-let investors will become richer as Britain leaves the European Union because tighter immigration policies proposed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are “likely to improve the quality of tenants.”

According to Mr Wilson: “Ten years ago I housed a lot of single mums and battered wives who were a good category of tenant. They were pretty good at paying the money and looking after the houses. But then in about 2005 the eastern Europeans started coming and they made really good tenants. I haven’t advertised a property for five years because they always ask – can my friend move in?”

Despite the Wilson’s optimism, the housing sector was one of the worst affected industries following Britain’s decision to reject EU membership with shares in housing giants Taylor Wimpey, Redrow and Bovis Homes Group each down around 30% since the vote.

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Tech Startup allows Landlords to Stalk Renters Social Media

landlords-to-use-app-to-stalk-tenant-profile

Landlords in the UK may soon find it easier to track renters’s private social media content using software developed by a UK startup.  The company, Score Assured, uses a program to scan prospective tenants’ social media profiles and private posts to record information such as relationship and family status.  Also recorded are key words such as “no money,” “poor” and “staying in” which the company claims may indicate how reliable a tenant may be in maintaining rent payments.

The company’s co-founder, Steve Thornhill, has rejected claims that the program breaches privacy laws saying that the software is more innocent than it appears.  “It’s about giving the tenant more opportunity to get the property they want,” he says. “A lot of people now, millennials, for example, don’t have credit scores — so how they can get a property when the answer from the traditional credit score is going to be no?”

Supporters of the program claim that a tenant must consent to a landlord running the program on their social media profiles before it can be used.  Thornhill claims that such consent means that the program, Tenant Assured, is no different from a traditional credit check.

Others say that often tenants have no other option than to accept the download of their social media information to secure a property and hence tenants will be forced to accept an invasion of their privacy.  Also consumer protection laws regulate credit checks because of their potentially large impact on consumers.  Regulators also have recognized that although such checks may technically be “opt in,” they’re effectively not optional for those who don’t have the luxury of only choosing landlords, jobs or loans that don’t require them, or who work in industries or live in areas where such checks are standard practice.

 

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