Well known landlord Fergus Wilson did not harass a tenant into leaving her property, a county court judge has ruled.
Deputy District Judge Roffey was also highly critical of the local Citizens Advice Bureau, in Ashford, Kent, which had advised the tenant.
Judge Roffey said: “I must first of all say that Citizens Advice Bureau up and down the country provide an invaluable and worthwhile service to millions of people on little funding.
“They provide legal advice and assistance to those who cannot afford their own and I wholeheartedly commend them as one of the cornerstones of the judicial system in this country.
“Sadly however this case does not represent the finest hour of the CAB.”
The Judge said that someone at the CAB helped the tenant, Ella Payne, prepare a defence and counter-claim in the case where Fergus Wilson’s wife, Judith, was seeking a claim over cleaning and eradicating mould at the property, which she said had required redecorating.
The tenancy was ended by a court order for possession.
While the case was heard at the end of October, the transcript has only just been passed to EYE.
The Judge said that the way the CAB put together the case was not “dispassionate and objective” but was a result of the CAB’s previous dealings with the Wilsons.
A clue, said the judge, was in part of the defence and counter-claim, which said: “Further, the claimant, who owns numerous houses in Kent, treats many of her tenants and former tenants in a maliciously, oppressively and grossly reckless manner.”
The Judge said that “such an emotive rant” should have no place in pleadings in any circumstances, even if evidence suggested that the allegations were true: “To make matters worse, however, that paragraph together with the other allegations . . . were completely unjustified.”
Other parts of the counter-claim said that Fergus Wilson “unlawfully evicted the tenant from the premises”; and that he had “unlawfully and maliciously threatened and intimidated” the defendant who had been “so scared, frightened and intimidated by Mr Fergus Wilson’s unlawful threats that she vacated the premises and returned the key within the four days”.
The tenant claimed that she had received a letter from Fergus Wilson giving her four days within which to give possession of the property.
This, said the Judge, was the “malicious threat and intimidation” referred to in the counter-claim. However, there was no reliable evidence as to where the letter came from, and the Judge concluded that it probably was the court order for possession – “nothing more and nothing less”.
The Judge said that the Wilsons had behaved in a respectable and professional way towards the defendant.
The Judge said that Judith Wilson had proved her claim for damages, and said that after removing £750 – the bond paid by Ashford Borough Council – the amount would be £925.
The Judge dismissed the tenant’s counter-claim, including allegations that a toilet leaked into the living room below, saying there was no evidence: Fergus Wilson had visited the property, as had a plumber who had not found a leak. Wilson had suggested the tenant open windows to counter alleged problems of mould and damp. His one-line email had been terse, but nothing more.
The Judge also specifically threw out the former tenant’s claims of threats, intimidation and unlawful eviction.