If there’s one person in the UK, who should be admired as a hero of private rental sector landlords, that man is Fergus Wilson.
At rent.works, we have a google alert set up to see which of his antics the tabloid newspapers are going to get worked up about this week.
And it’s not just the stalwarts of British journalism which get worked up about the millionaire’s seemingly cruel and unusual letting practices. News outlets as far afield as New Zealand are keen to point their antipodean fingers as he turfs pregnant tenants onto the street.
To the world, Fergus Wilson is a villain. To the private rental sector, he’s a guiding light. He’s an early adopter. His actions dictate what is and isn’t acceptable practice in the property management. And why not? Mr Wilson clearly knows what he’s doing, and is supremely competent.
Fergus Wilson was one of the first, if not the first major league landlords to completely block tenants on housing benefit tenants from staying in any of his properties, and evicting those already present. Many small time landlords have had similar policies before, but Mr Wilson is a large player – it made headlines. Now, it’s the norm.
His refusal to accept tenants of certain Asian backgrounds because they leave behind a curry odour in the soft furnishings also made the news. It went to court, he lost. No-one tries that now. But you can be absolutely certain that if Mr Wilson had won, the private rental sector would now have far fewer Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi tenants followed suit. Yet again, Fergus Wilson shows the way.
And how many landlords, reading of potential £30,000 fines for not fixing boilers within three days if there’s a child in the house, will be mulling over a policy similar to that which Mr Wilson implemented last month. No Children. No pregnant women. The risk is just too great. There will be some, and after the first rash of punitive fines this coming winter, there will be more. Thanks solely to Fergus Wilson pointing out the only logical course of action.
Fergus Wilson is a bellwether. He guides the way for other, often smaller, landlords who aren’t bold enough to find the way for themselves. Occasionally, he takes a wrong turning – as with the curry court case. More often, he’s bang on the money.
Within an hour of the latest 0.25% interest rate rise, Fergus Wilson had raised the rents on all of his properties by £50 across the board.
It was the right thing to do – his business expenses have gone up – what other options are there?
Many landlords are mortgaged to the hilt, and will not be able to swallow the costs themselves. Some may even have 120% mortgages, which are, for some reason, still available.
There are two options available – to follow Fergus once again, or to sink.
And for the rest of you, who aren’t over exposed on the mortgage front, the average rents in your area will go up, and unless you’re determined to make some kind of a point, against your own financial interests, you’ll follow Fergus too. Because he will have made it possible.
Every few years Fergus Wilson claims that the market is becoming too difficult, and that he’s about to sell his entire portfolio. We believe him. One day Mr Wilson will dump his entire housing stock onto the market and walk away from the business. Many people will follow the bellwether, but at that point, it’ll probably be too late.