Controversial Landlord, Fergus Wilson, has asked the police to investigate after being trolled online by anonymous posters calling him “racist”.
Wilson caused a storm in the media when an email penned to his letting agent was leaked into the public domain. Mr Wilson allegedly decided to ban “coloured” tenants because they left his properties stinking of curry, which caused damage to carpets. He claimed to have spent £12,000 in lost rent and new carpets in six months because of the curry problem.
Since the email was made public, Wilson has been sent offensive Facebook posts and a link to a YouTube video where he is the subject of vile abuse. Kent police say they are looking into the allegations and if they find any wrongdoing, they will prosecute the offenders.
Mr Wilson has also had some of his To Let boards vandalised, with some of the boards now carrying offensive statements.
Despite the backlash to his comments, Mr Wilson has refused to apologise or back down to the haters. Instead, he stands firm on his decision to ban coloured tenants, single mothers, plumbers, smokers, and dog owners. He claims his decision is economic rather than racist and any landlord has the right to ban certain groups of tenants.
There is no doubt that Wilson is a savvy businessman. He’s worth a staggering £100 million and owns hundreds of properties in the Kent area. However, many people believe his views are questionable and the furore surrounding the leaked email is unlikely to go away just yet.
Since the introduction of Universal Credit, many landlords don’t accept tenants claiming benefits. Under the old system, housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord so it was impossible for a tenant to fall into arrears. Universal Credit has changed all that and under the new system, the housing benefit component of Universal Credit is paid directly to the tenant. Not surprisingly, the new system has caused landlords many headaches and a recent Residential Landlords Association found that 25% of landlords with UC tenants were chasing arrears.
Tenants and Money
If the tenant is responsible with their money, they hand it over to the landlord when the rent is due, but if they prefer to blow their cash down the pub, the landlord has to wait two months before they can request that an Alternative Payment Arrangement is put in place.
Tenant Budgeting Resources
Often, tenants fall into arrears because they are not good at managing their money. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has created a new online budget tool for Universal Credit claimants. The DWP says the tool is not intended to replace face-to-face contact, but it is available 24/7 and is full of useful information for tenants.
Vulnerable tenants and people without access to the internet will still have access to resources and help in the usual way. However, whether this extra resource will persuade landlords to take on UC tenants is debatable.
Fergus Wilson, Britain’s largest landlord caused uproar after he was reported to have told letting agents not to let any of his properties to “coloured” people. He justified his remarks by telling letting agents in Evolution, the agency he uses, that “coloured” people leave curry smells at the end of the tenancy. The agency said they did not condone Wilson’s remarks and would therefore not implement anything he said in his email.
Landlord Faces Legal Action
The Equality and Human Rights Commission watchdog are now investigating Wilson’s comments and have warned him that he could face legal action. Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the commission, described Mr Wilson’s remarks as “truly disgusting”. She said they reveal the “deep inequalities” still prevalent in UK society.
“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”.
Campaign Group Condemns Landlord
Campaign group Hope Not Hate were quick to respond to Wilson’s comments and described them as “serious in their implication”. They told the Guardian newspaper that landlords like Wilson could not treat people in such a despicable fashion.
“This is the unacceptable face of the housing crisis,” said a spokesperson for the group.
Fergus Wilson has been unavailable for comment ever since the news of his email comments broke, but he may have to resurface if Kent Police decides to get involved in the matter.
ARLA and the RLA have written to Carl Sargeant, the Welsh Communities Secretary, to request a meeting about the problem of letting agent fees. They are worried that many letting agents are charging fees that vulnerable tenants cannot afford to pay. They want letting agent fees to be banned, but the Welsh Government has yet to respond to feedback from industry experts.
Tenants Paying the Price for Letting Agent Greed
The issue of banning letting agent fees came up a month ago when Mr Sargeant expressed concern that tenants were carrying a disproportionate burden of fees charged by letting agents.
The letter from ARLA and the Residential Landlords Association highlights a number of concerns, including the fear that money taken away from the private rental sector will inevitably affect the quality of service provided by landlords.
“We hope that Mr Sargeant will engage with us to understand fully the importance of any future decision around banning fees and the effect this would have on letting agents, landlords, and tenants in Wales,” ARLA said.
Concerns about the Rent Smart Wales Scheme
Both bodies have expressed concern about the new Rent Smart Wales legislation, which required that landlords and letting agents must be registered and licenced. The terms of the scheme state that if a letting agent doesn’t clearly advertise their fees, they could lose their licence. If this happens, they will no longer be able to run a letting agents business in Wales.
In many cities around the world, rents are so high and living space so cramped that tenants are forced to live in so-called ‘coffin homes’. We are used to reading stories in the UK press of tiny flats and cramped bedsits charged out at exorbitant prices, especially in London, but the reality is a lot worse in cities such as Seoul and Hong Kong. There, poor families and low-income workers are forced to make do in coffin apartments measuring little more than 20 square foot. Some people barely have enough space to stand up, yet pay £182 per month for the privilege.
Cage Housing in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, cage homes are an affordable housing solution for people who can’t afford regular housing. House prices have soared in Hong Kong in the last five years, making it one of the most expensive places in the world to live. Stackable ‘cage homes’ offer just enough space for a person to sleep and store a few belongings, and thanks to wire mesh sides, are also secure. Some people have lived in their cage home for decades, as they can’t afford to find anything better.
The Most Expensive City in the World
Even more expensive accommodation in Hong Kong is not much better. For £400 per month, you still only get 60 square feet, which is extremely cramped for two people. But with living space in short supply, these people have no choice. So the next time a tenant complains about the size of a flat, tell them to be grateful they don’t have to rent a flat in Hong Kong!
A Scottish landlord is ruing the day he accepted £40k of valuable stolen whiskey from a tenant who couldn’t pay the rent. That slight error of judgement has led to a community order for possessing stolen goods.
Whiskey Worth £40k Hidden in Landlord’s Loft
The landlord was caught with 57 bottles of malt whiskey hidden in his loft. The police received a tip-off after a collection of valuable whiskey had been stolen from a bonded warehouse in Grangemouth last July. The informant told police that the landlord had a stash of whiskey in his loft, and suggested they take a look.
Police Acted on a Tip-Off from an Informant
When the police arrived, they found nine bottles of Port Ellen and seven bottles of Brora 1977, which had a combined value of £14,700. There were more stolen bottles recovered from the attic, but sadly for the landlord, none of them had been duty-paid, so he couldn’t have sold them on even if he had wanted to.
Initially, the landlord told officers he had invested in the whiskey collection for cash, with the intention of selling them on in ten years for a profit. However, he eventually admitted that he had agreed to take the bottles in lieu of rent, and had ignored the fact they were obviously stolen.
“I’ve Been Foolish,” says Landlord
The landlord’s solicitor told the court that his client acknowledged he had been stupid. No doubt the court agreed.
A new mortgage deal from the Loughborough Building Society lets students take on the mantle of landlord while they study for their degree. The ‘Buy for Uni mortgage offers 100% finance towards a property worth up to £300k. It mirrors a product sold through the Bath Building Society, but as tempting as it might sound to students who are keen to take a step on the property ladder, it should be approached with caution.
Student Mortgage Terms and Conditions
Any student aged 18 and over is eligible. The property must be located within 10 miles of the university where they are studying and a guarantor must be provided for mortgages with a LTV of 80% or more. The mortgage will revert back to a standard mortgage after three or four years.
Since most students can’t afford mortgage payments, the only way they can earn enough money is by sub-letting rooms to other students. This effectively turns students into landlords. In theory this is fine, but if something goes wrong, for example interest rates rise or the student has a problem collecting rent, the guarantor will be forced to step in and cover the mortgage payments.
The Stress Test
Some critics have described the mortgages as ‘elitist’, as only parents with substantial equity in their home will be able to act as guarantor. Rental income earned from subletting rooms also needs to be enough to cover the mortgage payments plus a bit extra.
Being a landlord can be a frustrating and stressful business. Tenants don’t always pay the rent and some tenants think nothing of calling you up at midnight demanding that you come and change a lightbulb or move a spider from the bath. Despite the aggravation, deadly disputes between tenants and landlords are, thankfully, rare. Unfortunately for one landlord, a catastrophic lapse of judgement led to bloodshed.
Landlord Murder Charge
A landlord in the US has been arrested on a murder charge after allegedly stabbing his tenant to death in a dispute over unpaid rent. The tenant was renting an apartment for $1,500 a month, but according to neighbours, he was nine months behind on his rental payments. One neighbour described how the landlord was terribly stressed by the affair and felt his tenant was playing games.
Tragic Loss of Life
The incident was witnessed by the victim’s son, which makes it even more tragic. This sorry situation probably wouldn’t have escalated to this stage in the UK, as any sensible landlord would have issued a Section 21 notice long before nine months had lapsed. However, it’s not hard to see why the landlord had reached the end of his tether, especially if he had mortgage payments to find on the property.
The moral of this story is that if you are struggling to cope with the stress of a difficult tenant, seek professional advice. All it takes is a momentary loss of judgment for bad things to happen.
There is a severe lack of affordable properties in London, with many tenants willing to pay over the odds for a flat, irrespective of how unsuitable it is. Not surprisingly, some landlords have decided to cash in on the strong demand for rentals in the capital.
Unscrupulous Landlord Caught Out
A landlord in Southwark has been caught out trying to let out a former storeroom as a bedsit. The minimum size for a rental property is 37m2. This property measured only 27m2. It also only had one window, so ventilation and natural light were very poor. As a result, the property did not meet planning regulations and had been illegally converted.
The flat was described as a one-bed flat and images online indicate the conversion was nicely done, but nevertheless, it still didn’t meet the required standards and Southwark Council did not hesitate to take action against the landlord.
Landlord Must Pay Costs
The landlord now has four months to remove the kitchen and bathroom from the property and stop renting it out to tenants. He will also have to pay full costs for the court case, which could end up being several thousand pounds.
Councillor Williams from Southwark Council said the borough would not hesitate to take action against unscrupulous landlords trying to make money by letting out unsuitable properties.
“This case shows we will take action against anyone who fails to meet our standards for decent, quality homes for our residents.”
The rise of online rental property advertising has led to a surge in property scams. Criminals are fraudulently offering properties to prospective tenants and then stealing deposits. In a recent case, a scammer rented a property via popular short-term letting website Airbnb and then advertised it on Gumtree.
Fraudulent Property Listing
It wasn’t long before a fish took the bait. The victim in question contacted the fake landlord and arranged a viewing of the property. He was shown around and seemingly happy with the place, arranged for an advanced payment to be transferred to the landlord. Shortly after the money transfer went through, the landlord stopped responding to calls and text messages, so the victim went to the police.
It soon became apparent that the fake landlord did not own the property and therefore had no authorisation to let it out. The money paid as a deposit was sent to a stolen bank account and withdrawn almost immediately. An investigation was launched by the Met’s Operation Falcon department, set up to deal with online fraud and linked crime.
The tenant had managed to take a photo of the fake landlord, which the police are now circulating in the media, in the hope that somebody is able to identify the perpetrator.
Unfortunately, this type of fraud is all too common. Most scammers advertise their fake properties on websites like Gumtree, so it is always worth keeping a check online to see if your properties every pop up for rent, especially if you use Airbnb.