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  • In the Spotlight

    BBC "Panorama" - Fergus Wilson - synopsis



    Panorama say Fergus Wilson is the UK's "most controversial landlord".

    The Wilsons told the BBC that they were getting rid of their properties through "natural wastage", just selling the properties off as they became vacant.

    The reporter says that this is not the case.

    The reporter visits a street where 7 or the families out of 14 have been "booted out" with Section 21 notices.

    Cue Hannah who received her Section 21 at Christmas.  It's "crippling her financially" and she is "not impressed".

    Another tenant says he has been asked to move out because the Wilson's are selling up.

    The move will be expensive.  Tenants have to pay for moving costs, front a new deposit etc.

    The reporter keeps using the emotive language of "booted out".

    Section 21's are "no fault" evictions.  22K went to court, but this is not an indication of how many are served.

    Cue Polly Neate of Shelter who claims the ending of a private tenancy is the main cause of homelessness.

    Fergus says he won't take HB tenants because the benefits do not cover the rent.

    Judith says she has to pay her mortgage on time, but benefits are paid in arrears.

    The reporter says that evicting tenants is "ruthless" but Judith says it is "business".

    Fergus says there is also the issue of mortgage conditions not allowing tenants in receipt of benefits.

    Fergus says local authorities have a duty of care to house people - not private landlords.

    The reporter visits Grice Close, where the Wilsons own every property.

    The tenant interviewed says that there is "no security living in the PRS".

    Polly Neate of Shelter says "private renting is not fit for purpose".  She says Fergus is an extreme example of how landlords can make life insecure for tenants.

    Fergus visits Grice Close and says that he is selling all the properties as a job lot to another investor, so the tenancies can continue.

    However, the reporter visits a family who HAVE received an eviction notice, and they say it is a "revenge eviction" because they asked for some repairs to be made prior to agreeing to a rent increase.

    Wayne and Charlotte are angry and are now having to move back in with their parents.

    The reporter challenges Fergus on this and he says that, if tenants complain about a rent increase, it's a bad sign and he would rather make an "economic decision" now rather than later.

    "The landlord rules, rather than the tenant" he says, as he starts to get angry at the line of questioning.

    Most private landlords do a good job, says the reporter, and tenants stay in a property, on average, for 4 years.

    "Tenants are reliant on the goodwill of landlords" says the reporter.

    "There are two types of tenants" says Fergus in a nifty soundbite.  "Those that agree with me, and ex-tenants". 

    The Wilsons have housed over 10K tenants.  If tenants are not happy with the Wilsons as their landlords, "they should vote with their feet".

    The Wilsons visit their very first BTL property - they bought it for £35K in 1991 and they are now selling it for £330K.  They have already evicted the tenants.

    Cue to visit to Clive Emson Auctions as properties belonging to the Wilsons go under the hammer.

    "It was a good day for us" says Fergus "We usually make £1million at auction".

    The reporter says Fergus has made his millions through being ruthless - no curry, no "coloureds", no single mothers, no DSS.

    They then tell the story of the "no curry" email to his lettings agent.

    Fergus says he was never found to be a racist, but was stopped from using the phrase.

    Now the reporter visits Leanne and Mike Homes in a new flat.  They left the Wilson's property after they could not get a boiler fixed in their Wilson rental home.

    The couple are emotional and the wife is close to tears.  They spent 19 weeks in a housing Shelter.

    During the dispute, the council took the Wilsons to court, and the Wilsons were ordered to pay £1200 to the tenants.

    Now the Wilsons are suing the tenants for £32K, because the charges were later dropped.

    The reporter challenges Fergus on this using the "ruthless" tag again.  Fergus claims it was only hot water that the tenant did not have.

    Fergus says the compensation was "unjustly awarded" as the council withdrew the matter.

    Fergus says its not his problem that the tenants cannot afford to pay.

    The camera cuts to a tenant moving out of one of Fergus' property.  He is sad and angry to have to move.

    Wayne and Charlotte are shown living at their Mum's house.

    Meanwhile, Fergus is getting ready for his retirement and he is unapologetic.

    "If I could do it all over again, I would do it the same way" he says as he looks at his pigeons.

    The programme concludes ---- "Landlords can "pick and choose tenants", evict without reason, and tenants remain at the mercy of their landlord".

    Click Here to view on BBC iPlayer.

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    I have not watched this, but it doesn't surprise me that the BBC are keen to jump on the "anti PRS" bandwagon.

    Tenants are very well protected by law. The sector is also effectively controlled by supply and demand, which encourages a good standard of housing. Most landlords won't serve a no fault Section 21 if it is not in their commercial interests to do so; ie if the tenant is paying rent then the landlord won't be incentivied to end the tenancy. However, I can see how there could be an issue if one landlord owns the majority of properties in an area, as this would create a "sellers market"... 

    Even if this is the case with Mr Wilson, this is certainly not the case generally across the country, therefore this documentary is just more landlord bashing.

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    I think it was very one sided, they kept saying section 21 was used to "boot out" tenants, they suggested nobody had an issue with kicking out tenants who did not pay etc, what they failed to grasp was that landlords used S21 instead of other ways to remove a bad tenant because all the other ways are not fit for purpose..

    They went on about the cost of moving, one guy having to pay £2600, what they failed to take into account was part of that would have been a months rent which he would have had to pay anyway, and another part was deposit where if he had looked after his current property he would get that deposit back.

    Having said that I think the Wilson's are not really helping the sector, he basically said its the landlords rules and if you dont like it you dont have a home, exactly the kind of thing shelter etc love. 

    The case about the compensation did seem not so clear cut, and from what I could gather the boiler broke, it would appear electric heaters were provided, it is unclear if they were not enough or were not used (likely because of fear of cost of electricity), it was also not clear how long the boiler was not working. 

    It seemed strange Fergus said the case was dropped so the compensation should be paid back, im not sure why they would pay the compensation until after the case, maybe it was an appeal but if right and the case had no merit then it would seem reasonable to claim back the compensation and legal costs. 

    The interviewer seemed to basically say why are you going after them they cant afford it, you can..  That's such a leftist BBC attitude.  There are people that cannot afford food, you don't see them walk out of Tesco without paying and people saying its ok Tesco can afford it they can't, no its stealing.

    Unfortunately as soon as I heard about this program I knew even if Mr Wilson put on his most diplomatic hat he would be framed as a villain, I can't blame him for sometimes playing up, I am sure some of the edited parts where he was a bit nasty was probably after the interviewer poked him a lot and was taken slightly out of context, but thats why the media love him as you know if you keep attacking him enough sooner or later he will drop a nugget that you can edit and take out of context for your headline.

    After that program I honestly think the PRS is going to see some large changes with only very low leveraged professional landlords will be left, I believe that is the camp I sit in so on one hand I am fine with it, unfortunately I think the people they want to get rid of, more the accidental landlord, they will also get rid of the landlords at the low end of the market, specifically those that cater to tenants on benefits, the proverbial chucking out the baby with the bath water.

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    He's probably not that bad a landlord, less than a handful of examples where, yes he has been controversial, but he had almost 1000 properties,  But he is terrible at PR and, though he makes some great points, he puts it across in a way that will paint landlords out to be the bad guys.

    The only two issues that came across to me was, Mrs Wilson saying we evict before they become a problem, and the business to claiming back the compensation.  Sometimes your just better taking the hit and moving on.

    I still don't see the issue with Section 21.  Its 2 months notice!  I'd like to know what people think is reasonable notice when we want a property back?  I'd also make the point if they gave us an easier way to evict cheaply, quickly and without the risk of failure for rent arrears the number of S21s would drop dramaticly.

    I think thought when you get to 70 like Fergus, there can be no criticism for cashing in the chips and retiring.


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    Thanks Vanessa for saving me X minutes of my life watching Shamorama. I'm not surprised by your findings in the programme unfortunately.

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    The programme seemed very much aimed at giving Section 21 a kicking with lots of emotive language such as tenants being "booted out".

    If a landlord sells up, then tenants may be effected, unless the landlord sells to another landlord with tenants in situ.

    It is no different if a business decides to close down, then employees lose their jobs.

    Using the logic of "Panorama", then no business should have the right to close down, because that could make employees feel insecure.

    Redundancy could then be said to be the biggest reason for unemployment etc.

    It's interesting that the commentators were all anti-landlord and that no landlord association was asked to give a viewpoint.

    Fergus was used as a showcase why Section 21 must go.

    Summary:  Another nail in the coffin for Section 21 and another reason why "power" must be taken away from landlords to stop it being abused, as evidenced by how Fergus said "The landlord rules, rather than the tenant" - a most unfortunate sound bite and bit of rhetoric.  Decent landlords will rue the day he uttered those words!

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    awful documentary, Panorama is very high profile program and will reach out to millions as well as all the additional press coverage it will receive, this is devastating for us honest hard working landlords, another nail in the coffin, the Wilson’s have terrible PR skills and overall they needed to dig deeper and find their human sides which they dismally failed to do.

    they make me be ashamed of mentioning anything about me being a landlord I have been describing myself as a real estate investor for a couple of years now, precisely because of bad puplicity like this.

    one of my tenants recently stopped paying the rent and finally left at the end of Feb owing in excess of £8,000.00.

    My margins are so fine that I’ve had to borrow this money from credit cards in order to survive, one tenant can make or break you, not everyone has 300+ properties and has the cushion to take a loss here and there.

    Devastating !!!!

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    Has the penny dropped yet PT

    We have to face facts the govt councils ect dot want our services

    this chip chip away at the sector will see the end of the sector which was not there 30 years ago

    this program will push govt and councils to tax and regulate more

    it’s going to become more difficult year by year to make BTL work

    I get it in the neck that I am doom and gloom

    but I am this way because I can see futher ahead than most and I am right

    this man has done us no favours

    it’s going to get worse

    my advice to all out there is don’t depend on BTL for your future it may not be as rosey as you think


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    Learn Change and Adapt ?????

    All comments are for casual information purposes only. If you wish to rely on any advice I have given please ensure you obtain independent specialist advice from a third party. No liability is accepted for comments made.


    Fergus Wilson has done us no favours,not because he's necessarily wrong, but because he's downright hopeless at putting the case for the PRS positively.

    Perhaps Dyslexic landlord is right, Maybe the Gov does'nt  want our services. Want is quite a different matter from 'need'. I wan't a trouble free life, but i need to eat! So i provide private housing for folk that need housing.

    I have no doubt that Gov and local councils will be champing at the bit to pile on yet more ill-considered regulation and buaurocracy. Given both recent and past form of MP's deliberations, we can only expect them to continue to comprehensively mess up the housing market in all tenures.  

    However unlike dyslexic - landlord I do not believe that the end of buy to let is nigh. I don't see anything like the housebuilding activity needed to balance the supply and demand dynamics. When and if sufficient houses are built, land, material and labour costs alone will  make housing ownership beyond the reach of many. Changes in work pattern mobility will continue and renting will become more of a necessity and choice. Institutional investors will play into the market, focussing on those who can pay the highest rents. The reality is that it is a minority of renters that can pay their high rents, therefore the institutional investors will leave the broader average market largely unaffected, precisely because it is not sufficiently profitable to cover their huge operational and administrative costs. The gov will eventually go to the cupboard and realise there is nothing more to sell off as lucrative bribes ( subsidy, cheap land, cheaper loans etc) to entice the institutions to rent to the average renter. And if if they do, it will be the tokenism of quota's not any significant commitment to those most in need of housing. Profit will rule and Gov will be in no position to argue - witness the costly PFI fiasco that has rendered our NHS all but bankrupt. The fundamental undercurrent of growing demand for rental housing will see ample room for a variety of housing providers with individual BTL's remaining the biggest of all players.

    As to the Gov wanting to put us all out of business, well maybe. They have after all proved themselves adept and taking poor advice from obviously biased sources, ignored their own evidence, sidled up to organisations such as Shelter for the dubious Qudos  it affords them, and sort to reap in the votes from any group still prepared to believe their false promises, regardless of limitations or even basic logic.

    Housing is a basic human need and private housing providers may not be universally loved, huge irrefutable success is frequently the subject of populist loathing, but the PRS has proven to be the most prolific and successful housing provider this nation has ever known. We do it well, we do it cost effectively, and have the best tenant satisfaction rates of any housing tenure. Hard and harsh words for our opponents but the truth nonetheless.

    I do agree with Dyslexic_landlord that times are set to get tougher and the anti PHP sentiment rattles on. Many PHP's will choose to leave, and for good reason, and i may be one among the many.  Eventually however, the media and political tantrum will pass as the need to get people housed becomes ever more pressing. Sorting out and tidying the aftermath of the tantrum will be for the grown ups.

    As long as there is a need for housing, there will always be a need for the private aspiration,commitment and finance to provide it.


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    On one hand DL you say........ its all going to get worse and the govt and councils are against us and it will get more difficult year by year to make BTL work so dont depend on it

    But on the other hand ....you have enough faith in BTL continue to hold your very substantial portfolio and are not selling like Fergus is...  But not only that you are in fact expanding your BTL empire and spending a massive million pounds in a rolling programme over the next 4 years investing in 40 BTL`s which you are purposely building from scratch.

    I take a real comfort in that fact that your words don`t in fact match your actions

    Beneath your signature outward doom and gloom, you in fact have a massive positive faith in BTL .

    Thank gawd for that is all I can say  ...Me too

    I`m sure there are  other rich similar to you, that always moan and groan about their lot .

    Human nature is human nature

    They will also say stuff like........

    I hate the rising cost of petrol as my Ferrari 458 Spider only does a pathetic 14 mpg

    I hate  flight delays when  holidaying in the Seychelles - thats the 4th time I`ve been delayed this year

    I had really poor service at The Fat Duck last  week I will try Raymond`s  Le Manoir place this week

    I really hate BTL these days.. but I guess I will still fork out a million to buy 40 more of the dam things!

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    Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com


    I  have great faith in my own bussinss I have always said that. And I think I have always said if you have built up a BTL bussinss hold on to it

    the truth is if your rich now you can get richer

    I have said the old strategy I used 85% mortgage the RDPD thing is now at an end

    this game needs cash and who have the cash the rich

    you have said your own cliants are rich and that’s my point

    money makes money

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    Learn Change and Adapt ?????

    All comments are for casual information purposes only. If you wish to rely on any advice I have given please ensure you obtain independent specialist advice from a third party. No liability is accepted for comments made.