Behind the Doors of Britain's Most Controversial Landlord: Tenants Claim They Were Left Feeling Vuln
A controversial landlord who has tried to ban 'coloured' people and plumbers from living in his houses left tenants feeling vulnerable in their own homes because of his 'bolshy' behaviour.Fergus Wilson, 70, owns hundreds of properties throughout Ashford, Folkestone and Maidstone in Kent which he rents out with stringent policies on potential tenants.In March, he banned 'coloured' tenants from his homes because he claims they make them smell of curry, but denied he was racist.It was revealed that he had sent out a new list of requirements for 2017, including refusing to let out his houses to single mothers or fathers, 'battered wives' or plumbers.Now, some of those who have lived in his rental properties have revealed what it is like to be one of his tenants.One, who wished to remain anonymous, said she felt vulnerable when he seemingly refused to fix the boiler during winter months when she had a two-year-old daughter.She moved into the property in Ashford in May 2013, and a leaky toilet was fixed very quickly early on in the tenancy.But in November, the boiler stopped working, and she contacted him to get it fixed.Mr Wilson insisted the problem was probably 'user error' and told her it was his policy to have her pay for a plumber to come and check that it wasn't her fault, which she followed.By December 23, she was still without hot water and heating, and was forced to stay with her father in his spare room.She asked again for a plumber to fix the problem, but was told no one would be available until the new year.She said: 'I just felt like I was being fobbed off.'He did not see the urgency. I did get a plumber in the end because I didn't see a way forward.'In the end the letting agent was sympathetic and I wasn't left out of pocket but I didn't know I wouldn't be when it was going on.'By law, all repairs to the home must be carried out at the landlord's expense.Most tenancy agreements tell tenants not to carry out their own repairs.Once Mr Wilson had told her there was no one to repair before Christmas, he asked if she was in receipt of housing benefit - something she declared she was at the beginning of the tenancy.He then asked her to make arrangements to live elsewhere.In an email seen by the MailOnline, Mr Wilson wrote to the letting agent: 'There may well be sureties bit I did say no one else on benefits! No one is listening! Please arrange a move out date with the tenant.'She said: 'Before I became a single parent I was in charge of my own income, and in this I felt vulnerable. I wasn't aware of anything or anyone that could help.'As he had fixed the leaky toilet earlier in the tenancy I was bowled over by the whole heating thing.'I was really surprised that he did not want to come and fix it.'In a way I'm relieved that he won't take people on housing benefit now because those vulnerable people won't have to deal with him, although I don't know where they would go.'He told the MailOnline this tenant had been 'ideal' but an unfortunate casualty of the new policy in 2013 as so many of his housing benefit tenants were in arrears.He claims her boiler and boiler mate were working when she left the property but the settings had not been correctly managed. She insists all advice given to her by him was useless, as he asked her to move switches not present on her devices.Mike Bourner faced a similar situation when he started renting property from Mr Wilson in the winter of 2008/2009.He moved in with his then-partner who was pregnant with his oldest son.When his son was about six months old, the boiler stopped working. They contacted the letting agency who were in touch with Mr Wilson, but no one came to look at the boiler.Mr Bourner, 30, said: 'I got to the point where because he was refusing to do anything about it, I refused to pay the rent.'A friend of mine was a boiler engineer, so I asked him to look at it, though he couldn't do any work. He told me the range was discontinued so parts couldn't be bought for it anymore, and it was the same in all the houses in that estate.'He told me I'd probably find I get evicted. And that's what happened.'Mr Bourner said a couple of months after the initial complaint, two plumbers were sent around, who 'bashed about a bit' and then left, saying they would get back to him, but he didn't hear anything.Mr Bourner said: 'Nothing was ever done about the boiler but then we were sent paperwork giving us two months to leave the house.'Mr Wilson then took half the deposit, about Â£600, for not cutting the grass or cleaning the carpets, despite the fact the garden was a jungle when we moved in and the carpets were not clean.'Under housing law, not providing a working boiler is a breach of the tenancy agreement with the tenants but a landlord can still evict a tenant even before the repairs are carried out.In order to have the boiler works completed, tenants have to have the council's environmental departments involved, asking them to serve an improvement works notice on their landlord.An inspector would have to find a category one hazard, which no heating or hot water comes under.A landlord has to carry out works ordered by the council and cannot evict a tenant for another six months.Mr Wilson denies that either home had a faulty boiler, and claims it was the settings in both cases. He also claims there was working hot water.He told the MailOnline: 'His boiler was working fine. It produced hot water which was stored in the boilermate. When he left there was hot water. Further he also had an immersion heater in case the boiler did fail. He had left the boilermate on hot water only.'He also claims Mr Bourner's money was taken for rent arrears, not anything else.He claims Mr Bourner gave him notice to leave and his story is 'inconsistent' with his records.He was recently successfully taken to court by Ashford Borough Council after leaving a pregnant tenant and her child without heating or hot water.They had to pay the tenants Â£1,200 in compensation as well as thousands of pounds in legal fees after losing the case.