Here at rent.works, we love Fergus Wilson. He provides us with entertainment, keeps the private rental sector in the headlines, and is the bellwether for a range of questionable legal and moral actions from which others can learn.
You already know the name, and presumably don’t need a list of heinous and discriminatory practices he employs and has tried to employ in his relentless pursuit of the bottom line.
But it appears that the 70 year old, along with his wife, Judith, are to quit the buy-to-let business for good. Hurray!
He’s carefully not blaming Brexit (but really is). Not because of exchange rate issues, nor the shortage of tenants from the continent. No, he’s blaming the shortage of cheap eastern European labour – without which his reported £170 million property empire would crumble to dust.
In a letter to property118, he wrote, “I have therefore taken the decision to stop letting properties in Ashford and Maidstone for the foreseeable future. Without East European staff I cannot operate!”
“Whether this is to do with Brexit or not need not concern me.”
Mr Wilson claims to have sold four houses in the last week – turfing the (eastern European) tenants onto the street. We would expect nothing less of him.
This is not the first time the Wilson’s have told media outlets that they have divested their entire property portfolio. In 2015, the Telegraph ran a lengthy piece in which the pair revealed they were about to offload their entire portfolio to wealthy foreign investors in protest at tax changes.
We don’t know whether the sale actually went ahead.
The Wilson’s are currently facing a minor tsunami of legal woes. Mrs Wilson was recently brought before magistrates after ignoring demands from Ashford council that she fix a tenant’s boiler. And a local service station called the police on Mr Wilson after he hurled his fish supper to the floor because it took 20 minutes to arrive. Ths is in addition to the usual run of property tribunals.
But the currents of legal trouble have been travelling in both directions.
Earlier this year, his attempt to sue youtuber, Danny Hyde, for calling him an “enormous bumsplat”, a “f***ing numpty”, and a “penis,” backfired when a judge at Yeovil Crown Court threw the case out, saying that it had “no basis in law.”
See, we told you that the Wilsons were entertaining.
The loss of three Romanian staff last week means that the Wilsons have only six full-time staff, where they had 14 in 2008.
That stands to reason, seeing as they were supposed to have dumped their portfolio in 2015. Why would they need any staff at all?
And there is the crux of the matter. The key question. Are they actually getting out of the market or nor not? Can pregnant, ethnically diverse, battered female electricians finally rent a property in the south east without being discriminated against? Or is this another fake out?
Is it a display of childish pique similar to the one which saw Harry Ramsden’s staff needing to get their mops out last month? Or are the Wilsons genuinely unable to find any reasonably priced tradesmen in the whole of Kent?
Right now, we don’t know. But we’ll keep the office popcorn maker on standby for the next time the Wilsons are in the news.