Modern Day Rachmans?

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    Modern Day Rachmans?

    The Wilsons: We've all heard of them and their 700 properties in Ashford, Kent. Often portrayed as kindly benefactors offering slightly under market rents; but is there another side of the story?

    Cutting down tall poppies, or are they truly Rachmanesque? Thoughts?

    18 April 2007

    Fergus and Judith Wilson look set to become Britain's first buy-to-let billionaires. Fifteen years ago they gave up their jobs as maths teachers and now own and rent out several hundred properties in Kent and the south-east. They say they know how to spot a bargain and have made their money through rising house prices.

    They own a huge amount of properties on Park Farm, an estate just outside the centre of Ashford. Unfortunately, some of their tenants there are not happy.

    When Julia Gowlett moved into her property in November 2005 she felt the house was in need of a lot of work and a good clean. There were problems with the water system; the taps on the bath were broken and had to be opened with a wrench, and it took 30 to 45 minutes to run a bath. A year later, these problems were still not fully resolved so she decided to terminate her tenancy.

    Anxious to get her £700 deposit back, Gowlett cleaned and painted the house from top to bottom before she moved out. An independent inventory clerk checked out the property and found it was now in a cleaner condition than when she moved in. However, she'd also left small picture hooks in three of the rooms and for this she was facing a charge of up to £200 per room. Wilson himself then visited the property and Gowlett was told she would now have to pay £1,200 'landlord's charges' for redecoration.

    Gowlett disputes the charges and feels they're disproportionate to the work needed on the property, and they don't take into consideration the improvements she made to the house while she was living there.

    Simon Strickson and his family lived in one of the Wilson's properties for six months last year. When he moved out in November 2006 his official check-out report included a £50 charge for marks on the carpets, which Strikson accepted. He was then sent another letter, which included 'landlord's subsequent recommendations', an extra charge from the Wilsons. They were looking to charge him £1,650 for 'excessive wear'.

    Strickson disputed this charge and the Wilson's gave him two choices, settle at £2,500 or go to court.

    Fergus Wilson disputes the details of these two cases, and says the marks in both properties were hardly normal wear and tear. He maintains neither case has raised their complaints in the proper way and insists the recommendations in their check-out reports are not those of the landlord, although he also makes clear he considers them to be correct and reasonable. The figure of £200 per room for redecoration is consistent with county court judgements, and less than contractors would charge. He says in both cases he'll be starting proceedings to recover the costs, and they'll have considerable difficulty defending their cases.

    The government launched a new scheme on 6 April 2007 that aims to help protect tenants in the future. Under the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme, the deposit will be paid into one of three independent government-appointed schemes. In addition, if there are disputes over deposits at the end of tenancies, the scheme will provide a dispute resolution service.

    For more information visit the Communities and Local Government website.
    Now signature free.

    The problem the Wilsons have is all their tenants being in the same area so word of this will spread like wildfire.

    I've always wondered what would happen if the Wilsons tenants got themselves together in a union. They could all have a one month rent strike on the same month and wreck the Wilson's cash flow. With 700 properties the bill could be big and it would panic the lenders. (If the average rent is 700pcm and all 700 tenants took part the monthly shortfall would be 490K).

    If this causes repossessions the tenants could step in and buy at a knock down price.

    All they would need are door to door leaflets and a few ads in the local paper and they could arrange a meeting


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