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Prosecution of high-profile landlord ‘shows we have teeth’, says councillor

Folkestone Magistrates Court’s decision last week to find high profile landlord, Judith Wilson, guilty of failing to comply with an enforcement notice ordering her to supply hot water to a disabled tenant should act as a powerful reminder to private sector landlords that there will be serious consequences if they fail to deal fairly with their tenants, warns Ashford Borough Council.

The council successfully prosecuted the buy-to-let landlord who owns more than 300 properties in Ashford and Maidstone with her partner, Fergus Wilson, for failing to comply with an enforcement notice ordering her to supply hot water to her wheelchair bound tenant who lives at 17 Emperor Way in Ashford, TN23.

The Council told the court that Mrs Wilson failed to ensure that the defects were remedied within the period allowed by the notice, which led to the authority carrying out the work itself.

In delivering his verdict, Judge Barron said that the defendant 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 continued: “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.

“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.”

Judith Wilson will return to court on 11 December to hear Judge Barron pass sentence.

The judge has made a financial circumstances order under Section 162 of the Criminal Justice Act that requires Mrs Wilson to disclose in court documents that evidence all bank accounts, both individual and joint, plus all assets.

Cllr Gerald White, Ashford Borough Council portfolio holder for housing, commented: “This successful prosecution against a high-profile landlord shows that we have teeth and we are not afraid to fight for the rights of tenants who live in our borough.

“What a lot of private sector tenants don't realise is that if they have trouble with their landlord they can come to us for help. Mr and Mrs Manser didn't know that until they were recommended to speak to us.

“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.”

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