Wilsons must lay assets bare, says court

It’s been a while since they hit the headlines, but they’re back again, and it’s not for spreading festive cheer…

Judith Wilson, wife of high-profile landlord (and PRS press-favourite) Fergus Wilson, will be facing court for sentencing on December 11th, following a successful prosecution by Ashford Council for failing to comply with an enforcement notice ordering Mrs Wilson to supply hot water to a disabled tenant. She was found guilty of the offence at a two-day hearing at Folkestone Magistrates Court, despite pleading not guilty.

Judge Justin Barron and the court heard how the property owned by Mrs Wilson had experienced ongoing problems with heating and hot water, which led to the council servicing an enforcement notice requesting that defects were remedied. Mrs Wilson failed to carry out the work in the time frame allowed, leaving the council to carry the works out themselves.

Mrs Wilson claimed that she was unable to comply with the notice as there was insufficient time allowed, the damage to the boiler was caused by the tenants or their agents, and she had not been allowed access to the property. Evidence in support of the defence case was delivered by herself, her husband and a maintenance man.

Taking into account the evidence…I find that Mr and Mrs Wilson could have had the work carried out within the period allowed by the abatement notice but chose not to. In this case those were not the actions of responsible landlords. There was 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. 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.

Judge Justin Barron

Mrs Wilson, who is believed to be the landlady of around 300 properties in the Ashford area, is having to disclose details of her bank accounts and all assets held by her and her husband, Fergus Wilson.

This successful prosecution against a high-profile landlord shows that we (the council) have teeth and we are not afraid to fight for the rights of tenants who live in our borough. The council champion the rights of tenants and we make sure that landlords in the private sector 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.

A council spokesperson

I arranged for a workman to attend and free the hot tap. Hence hot water was reinstated to the bath. There have been three Judgements from three different Judges and it is necessary to put all three side by side to get the full picture. One Judge totally found in Mrs Wilson’s favour. One found against Mrs Wilson and the third found in between. One Circuit Judge previously said to me that it is the luck of the draw which Judge you get!

Fergus Wilson

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