Judge lambasts Citizens Advice over its ’emotive rant’ help for tenant facing eviction

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.

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12 Comments

  1. lettingsguru

    Typical of CAB. Assist tenants by having scant regarding for law and the facts – let this be a lesson.

    The law is there to protect, and assist both tenant and landlord, it has its faults, but defaulting tenants can have little protection.

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    1. Bless You

      Landlord guilty until proven guilty   Free rent for all.
      Not sure about the fergusons.. probably could afford a decent lawyer unlike the 99% of landlords who get stitched up by tenants everyday and then blame the estate agent…
      Sick business. The business of people  …. bless them all for they need it.
       

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  2. Will

    It sounds like one particular adviser might have over-stepped the usual standards of the CAB.  It should be remembered they only hear the tenant’s side of the story and may have been over influenced by the Wilson’s media profile. At least the judiciary was able to see through it and felt able to comment. Unfortunately, we live  in strange times where everything is distorted by the media.  We have a Rogue Government trying to hide legal advice on Brexit, a rogue opposition not working for the benefit of the country with  its sole aim of forcing a general election to try and grab power.  We have a Government and so called charities like shelter who demonise landlords whilst effectively working against tenants making their lives more difficult.  You have conflicting everything with Christmas adverts by Shelter tugging at the heartstrings whilst not providing any accommodation and further building up its multi-million pound reserves. Crisis on the other hand is at least providing accommodation over the Christmas period for some. Yet gullible organisations like the Nationwide & B&Q fall for the glossy so called charities like Shelter.  We live in a world where emotional blackmail with charity fund raising is the norm.  I respectfully suggest anyone wishing to give to charity choose their charity well and give to the smaller organizations who do not operate on a corporate basis, where any giving has a 100% effective use. Seasonal best wishes to all.

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    1. Rayb92

      Well put

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  3. The_Maluka

    I have come up against CAB on several occasions, always with some spurious claim aimed at delaying the eviction of a dissident tenant.  Unfortunately the instance cited is typical.

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  4. wilberforce80

     

    Further to Will’s comments on Shelter I had a recent case with them which was dismissed by the judge after 6 months of hearings and misery, only to find by accident 5 months on that Shelter were still claiming legal aid in the case pretending to the LA Board that the case was ongoing. Fraud. I wrote to the LA Board and had the funding stopped, but instead of them taking action against Shelter for their wrongdoing they suggested to me that if I still felt aggrieved I should write a letter of complaint – to Shelter.

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    1. Will

      Wilberforce80 perhaps you should raise a complaint with the Charities commission citing SHelter’s behaviour. Tenants do not usually end up before a judge unless there is a good reason as the process is costly!  The fact is the media and social media has been demonising landlords to the extent most people now believe landlords are bad people; which of course in not true as a genearlisation.

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    2. singlelayer

      wilberforce80 -could you email your contact details to info (at) landlordsalliance (dot) co (dot) uk, please as we would like to investigate your case further.

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  5. Quags

    The Wilson’s are well known in this area for, er, well, you can guess.  There are tenants who will ask if a property is owned by them before renting it.

    But it does sound prejudicial to use an opinion from former dealings with them.

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    1. Quags

      To add weight to my statement…..

      The Wilsons have just been punished for something else!

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-46525700

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  6. cyberduck46

    Hardly equality in arms when a big landlord prosecutes a tenant.

     

    Citizens advice has had its funding drastically cut back as part of austerity which puts the advantage even more with the Landlord. Little wonder they are putting poor cases together.

     

    Of course presenting a poor case doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t a case to answer but that’s getting into the realms of speculation. As was the Judge’s comment ‘that it probably was the court order for possession – “nothing more and nothing less”’.

     

    You also have to wonder how the Judge knew ““To make matters worse, however, that paragraph together with the other allegations . . . were completely unjustified.””.

     

    It sounds like he’s making the same mistake that he is accusing CA of. Not being objective.

     

    Some poor Judges out there, especially in the Lower Courts.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    1. Will

      Fergus & Judith Wilson are infamous and their reputation would have certainly been known in the Kent judicial area. I guess any judge would have been aware of the Wilson’s reputation (be it right or wrong). The judge must have had grounds for his comments.
       
      What about the inequity when Shelter  totally outgun individual one off  landlords?  surely no difference.  “Prosecution” suggests a criminal case which this almost certainly would not have been. Anyone putting a case to court has a strict duty to the court to be honest and factual and their duty is to assist the court not a game of brinkmanship.

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