Buy-to-let tycoon evicts tenants on benefits in favour of Eastern Europeans - because 'they are better at paying rent'
- Fergus Wilson has sent eviction notices to 200 tenants on housing benefit
- He said Eastern Europeans less likely to default on rent than Britons
- Mr Wilson said many other private landlords had taken the same decision
Fergus Wilson has sent eviction notices to 200 tenants on housing benefit and said he would not accept any more welfare applicants.
The former maths teacher, who built up one of Britain’s biggest buy-to-let empires with his wife Judith, said his decision was based on experience as he had found Eastern Europeans were less likely to default on rent payments than Britons on housing benefit.
He said many other private landlords had taken the same decision, a claim echoed by housing charities including Shelter. It warned ‘benefit blackspots’ were forming across Britain as claimants have been forced to move out of popular areas.
Private landlords have the right to refuse or accept tenants, and recent evidence suggests they do not want those who rely on housing benefit.
Research from the National Landlords Association in December revealed that the number of private landlords letting to people on benefits had dropped to just one in five.
Mr Wilson, 65, said housing benefit rates had gone down in recent years, while private rent had gone up.
‘The gap is such that I have taken the decision to withdraw from taking tenants on housing benefit,’ he told The Guardian. ‘From what I can gather just about all other landlords have done the same. Our situation is that not one of our working tenants is in arrears – all those in arrears are on housing benefit.’
Mr Wilson said the housing shortage in the South East meant there was strong competition for rental properties, and he now preferred tenants from countries like Poland, who were more likely to pay their rent on time.
He said private landlords run their properties as a business and have to make decisions based on economic factors.
‘Tenants on benefits are competing with Eastern Europeans who came to the UK in 2005 and have built up a good enough credit record to rent privately,’ Mr Wilson said.
‘We’ve found them to be a good category of tenant who don’t default on the rent. With tenants on benefits the number of defaulters outnumbers the ones who pay on time.
‘Single mothers on benefits have been displaced to the bottom of the pile; sympathy for this group is disappearing. There aren’t enough places for people to live.’
Mr Wilson and his wife, also a former maths teacher, started their property empire in 1986.
They were said to have been on the brink of financial ruin in 2008 after banks stopped lending in the credit crunch, but were saved when the Bank of England slashed interest rates and held them at a historic low.
They now own nearly 1,000 properties around Ashford in Kent and their property empire has been valued at an estimated £225million.
Around nine million people pay rent to a private landlord. Shelter said some 500,000 claim housing benefit.
Its spokesman Roger Harding said the refusal of some private landlords to accept welfare claimants as tenants meant they were forced to leave desirable locations and accept poor quality housing.
He said: ‘If this continues we will see blackspots where people on housing benefit simply cannot find anywhere reasonable.’