Or, there is more than one way to skin a cat, Mr WIlson
Mr Fergus Wilson, usually described as ‘Britain’s largest buy-to-let landlord” is not shy of causing controversy.
The most recent controversy, as reported in the Daily Mail online and Nearly Legal, is his declaration that he will be evicting from his properties, all women who have babies – because the Council (Ashford) have ‘forced his hand’ by their
new policy on landlords having to fix boilers ‘within four days’ if the tenant is a single mum with a baby
Is this discrimination?
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or on maternity leave
- race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- sexual orientation
Mothers with new babies seem to be fairly and squarely within this list. So not surprisingly it looks as if Mr Wilson may be prosecuted and if so, almost inevitably he will be found guilty.
So this policy is not recommended – it is bound to cause him trouble and, almost certainly, expense.
For example, the four single mothers with newborns whose tenancies have, allegedly (according to the Mail) already been ended could claim damages (and probably will).
But does Fergus Wilson have a point?
I have to say that Mr Wilson’s complaint is not entirely unreasonable (although not, I hasten to add, his policy of evicting mothers with newborns).
But if he is going to be prosecuted for not getting a plumber round to a property in circumstances where it is not possible to get a plumber round (and if he can show that he has tried) – that does sound a bit unfair.
Four days is a tight timescale for getting major plumbing work done.
But would the Council actually take action?
I have had a very quick look at Ashfords website and I could not see anything about this issue – at least not on this page.
The guidance, on the contrary, seems to indicate that they would not want to prosecute unreasonably.
I would hope that if Mr Wilson is able to get his plumber round within, say, a week or a fortnight, and (if the boiler was for heating) if he provided some sort of alternative heating in the meantime, the Council would take no action.
My general understanding about Councils is that they are overworked and underfunded and that the last thing they want to do is bring unnecessary prosecutions.
What Mr WIlson could do instead
But if the Council did prosecute – surely Mr Wilson would be able to defend? Or if they serve a penalty charge notice on him, he can challenge it. There are procedures for this.
If he had managed to get the work done within a reasonable time (although not four days) I suspect a judge might consider the case an unnecessary waste of court time.
Wilson may even get an order that the rule is unreasonable (it is not unknown for arbitary Council ’rules’ to be overturned in the courts) – and thus be doing himself and other landlords a favour.
The proper way to deal with an unreasonable policy (particularly if you are the largest buy-to-let landlord in Britain and so presumably have a bob or two) is to challenge it in the courts.
Hoist with his own petard?
Mind you, as pointed out by Nearly Legal, Mr Wilson may find it particularly difficult to source plumbers in view of his policy of refusing to allow them to rent his properties.
In which case he only has himself to blame.
27/7/18: Message from Fergus Wilson
I have had a message from Mr Wilson who says:
You should surely know that you cannot believe what you read in newspapers!
This story was not about Single Mums or Pregnant Women.
What it was about was the acute shortage of Gas Engineers. Note not plumbers but Gas Safety Engineers.
A Gas Safety Engineer is something different to a plumber!
The main point of this post, however, is that if the Council impose unreasonable policies, the correct course of action is to challenge the policy, not evict the tenants.