Judith Wilson, who owns 300 houses in Kent, ignored council enforcement notices.
The wife of Britain’s most controversial buy-to-let landlord, Fergus Wilson, has been ordered to pay £25,000 in fines and legal costs after a court ruled that she had failed to supply hot water to a disabled tenant.
The court found that Judith Wilson, who revealed she has more than 300 houses in her name in the Ashford, Kent area, ignored council enforcement notices demanding she fix the problem.
Ashford borough council hailed the outcome of the case as “a powerful reminder to private-sector landlords that there will be serious consequences if they fail to deal fairly with their tenants”.
The Wilsons said they would appeal against the decision – and threatened to crash the local property market by putting their remaining properties on the market at the same time.
In a statement, Fergus Wilson said: “Following my wife’s conviction for not restoring hot water without due cause she immediately withdrew from letting further houses in Ashford and has greatly accelerated the disposal of her portfolio.
“This will result in a flooded market in Ashford and a drop of house prices by £50,000 to £100,000. That means all houses of Ashford residents will fall by the same figure.”
The Wilsons, who at one time owned a 1,000-strong property portfolio, are no stranger to court rulings.
In November last year, Fergus Wilson’s ban on “coloured” tenants because they allegedly left curry smells in his properties was overturned in a court victory for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Wilson, 70, had emailed a local letting agency, Evolution, saying: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy,” but at Maidstone county court, Judge Richard Polden said: “Such a policy has no place in our society.”
The latest court case centred on an allegation that a property in Ashford owned by Judith Wilson had ongoing problems with its hot water and heating system that led to Ashford borough council serving an enforcement notice requiring that the defects be remedied. The council told the court that Judith Wilson failed to ensure the defects were remedied within the period allowed by the notice, which led to the authority carrying out the work itself.
In her defence, Wilson claimed she had “a reasonable excuse” for failing to comply with the notice – namely that the damage to the boiler and heating system was caused by the tenants or their agents; that she was not permitted access to the premises; she had insufficient time to complete the work; and she reasonably relied on the council to carry out the repair itself.
In his verdict, Judge Barron said Judith Wilson had “every opportunity to resolve the issues, but Mr Wilson was consistently difficult, and stubbornly refused to make any genuine commitment to the council to get the work carried out”.
He added: “The Wilsons have shrewdly built up what can best be described as a property empire. They know very well that there is no duty on the council to carry out repairs on their behalf and then bill them for the work. As owners of around 300 properties, it is entirely reasonable to expect them to have arrangements in place to enable this type of issue to be dealt with promptly.”
Attention will now turn to the new powers that councils have to add names to the rogue landlord database, which prevents a landlord from letting their property either themselves or by using an agent. However, councils face a long process to add names to the database, and the Guardian reported in October that the database remained empty six months after its launch.
Ashford borough council warned there could be consequences for the Wilsons, but did not confirm or deny that it was proceeding with moves to place the couple on the database.
A spokesperson said: “Ashford borough council champions the rights of tenants and we make sure that landlords remain accountable and live up to their responsibilities under the law. If they don’t then there are consequences.
“In this case we did everything we could to resolve the situation. We gave Mrs Wilson every opportunity to find a solution to the problem, but we were ignored. In the end, we realised that the only way to get justice for the tenants involved was to prosecute.”