A multi-millionaire property tycoon says he will evict pregnant single women and single mums with newborns from his properties – but blames the council for his decision.
Landlord Fergus Wilson, 69, once boasted a property portfolio worth £200 million and is one of the UK’s largest buy-to-let investors along with wife Judith.
Mr Wilson says he isn’t a “bad guy” and blamed his decision on Ashford Borough council and “too strict” enforcement rules on landlords.
These rules mean landlords are fined if they fail to fix faulty boilers and heating systems “within four days” if there is a baby in the house.
This week Mr Wilson said he has already ended the tenancies of four single mums with newborn kids – and has said he will evict single women who get pregnant.
He told the Kentish Express newspaper today: “I just can’t risk something going wrong and not being able to get a plumber there in time – have you ever tried to get a plumber, there’s a national shortage.”
In a letter to Cllr Gerald White, Ashford Borough Council’s cabinet member for housing, Mr Wilson wrote: “It is heart-breaking to terminate the contracts, but we cannot recruit staff and service the tenants.
“The council has brought this decision on itself.”
He added in the letter that single mums with newborns and single women who get pregnant all face eviction from his homes because of council rules.
He added: “If there was a problem with hot water then we cannot get a gas safety engineer in under four days – the council requires the work be done ‘immediately’.
“We know we will not be able to comply with that expectation so (I) have brought these tenancies to an end.”
Last year, Mr Wilson sparked a row after banning “coloured tenants” because of the “curry smell” left in the homes when they left.
He was taken to court by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and at Maidstone County Court last November it was ruled that his ban was unlawful because it was discriminatory.
He was handed a three-year injunction which bans him from stopping tenants renting his homes because of their race – which if he breaches means he could be fined or face time in jail.
He has also previously tried to bar zero-hour workers, “battered wives”, and mothers and fathers with children under 18 from his properties.
A letter issued in 2017 showed Mr Wilson’s criteria.
Landlords who miss targets face being fined by the council for breaching tenancy agreements if they don’t stick to rules in its ’emergency maintenance policy’, which state that homes with newborns should have boilers and heating fixed ‘within four days’.
Mr Wilson confirmed that he had already given four single mums with babies their marching orders – but said he was giving them ‘two months’ grace’ to find somewhere else to live.
He says that he is only willing to take on mums with kids who are over the age of five, as council rules state that emergency repairs don’t have to be done within four days
Mr Wilson owns hundreds of properties in Ashford and Maidstone in Kent.
At the height of his and his wife’s property empire, the former maths teachers owned just under 1,000 homes, mainly two and three-bed properties, worth just under £200m.
Despite selling off around 400 homes in recent times, Mr Wilson and his wife still have a vast property portfolio.
Earlier this month Ashford Borough Council announced that rogue landlords faced fines of up to £30,000 if they ignore their legal responsibilities after adopting new enforcement powers, which can be dealt with by way of civil penalties, rather than through the criminal courts.
Speaking earlier this month, Cllr Gerald White said he was delighted at the new enforcement powers, adding: “I’m supportive of the proposed implementation of the civil penalty policy to allow the council to consider imposing fines on landlords who fail to comply with housing law, as an alternative to prosecution.
“Implementing the policy will hopefully deter landlords from failing in their responsibilities in providing safe homes and ensuring that they comply with the relevant housing law.”
A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council said it only used enforcement action against landlords as a ‘last resort’.
He said: “We have duty to ensure decent standards for tenant who are renting privately.
“We always work with landlords to ensure those standards are met and try to assist them as much as possible.
“Formal enforcement action is very much a last resort, but we will take action where necessary.”