Published: 13:27, 11 December 2018
| Updated: 17:51, 11 December 2018
Hundreds of people could be made homeless after Christmas, a buy-to-let tycoon has announced.
Fergus Wilson, 70, made the comment outside Folkestone Magistrates' Court today, after his wife Judith Wilson, 68, was fined thousands of pounds for failing to supply hot water to a disabled tenant.
On handing down the £10,000 fine, District Judge Justin Barron told the court Mrs Wilson was not "as wealthy as people think."
"I take into account your financial circumstance, I accept that you and Mr Wilson do not live a lavish lifestyle, you do have equity on the properties, you are not as wealthy as people think you are."
"There is no evidence that you have been taking huge sums of money out of the business," Judge Barron added.
"I do regard what happened was more deliberate than reckless."
Mrs Wilson, of Heath Road in Boughton Monchelsea, pays herself annually £23,000 from the lettings business, the court heard.
Judge Barron also ordered Mrs Wilson to stump up £14,800 costs to Ashford Borough Council (ABC), the authority that brought the charge.
ABC served the notice after Mrs Wilson’s ex-tenants, one of whom is wheelchair bound, alleged hot water to the upstairs of their property was faulty over a five-month period.
After finding Mrs Wilson guilty at a hearing in November, Judge Barron had ordered her to return to court for sentencing today.
She now has eight weeks to pay.
Defence barrister Ben Lebb argued the costs were against the public interest, because to afford the payment a house will need to be sold and a family evicted
However Judge Barron ruled in prosecutor Sophie Gray's favour, who told the court an eviction would only service as a "punitive measure" against the council.
Speaking on Mrs Wilson's behalf, Mr Wilson told reporters outside court tenants in 300 homes will be served a notice to quit after Christmas, as the pair prepare to sell-off their housing portfolio.
"The three hundred homes will be given notice to quit after Christmas," he said.
"They've got two months, we'll probably give it until January 14, let them get Christmas out the way.
"Then we will be giving them two months to go, because that's the statutory amount, from April onwards they will be made homeless."
ABC councillor Gerald White (con), portfolio holder for housing, told reporters the case had been brought because of a "breach of the law."
He said Wilson had failed to take care of council notices to carry out repairs to a property "time and time again."
When asked if ABC could absorb a potential mass eviction, Cllr White said the council has a "duty under law to help assist and to house."
He said:"Mr Wilson has made a statement that he wishes to sell his stock. If he does, those houses will hopefully be sold to another landlord who will make sure those people stay in those houses as tenants.
"It would be a churlish decision to expel the people when they bring income in."
In a previous hearing, prosecutor Sophie Gray accused Mrs Wilson of “fabricating” attempts to restore a boiler and showing “clear disregard” for tenants Mark Manser, who uses a wheelchair, and partner Sarah Manser.
However, defence barrister Ben Leb argued Mr and Mrs Manser denied Mrs Wilson access to the property in Kingsnorth and caused damage to the water system, causing the home to flood.
Mrs Manser said in a statement outside court today the couple had rented from the Wilsons for nine years, and their experience had been "terrible."
"We had water leaking from our ceiling. We had no hot water or heating for five months.
"When our roof collapsed with a water leak they didn't want to know (or) fix it."