Published: 08:20, 20 July 2018
| Updated: 08:39, 20 July 2018
Single mothers with newborn babies have been evicted from their homes in a row between a council and a property magnate.
Tycoon Fergus Wilson terminated four mums’ contracts during a clash with Ashford Borough Council (ABC) over its emergency maintenance policy.
The 69-year-old millionaire, who owns 1,000 homes in Kent, claimed ABC’s four-day deadline to carry out emergency works was unreasonable - because plumbers are scarce and he fears being fined.
However ABC condemned the evictions and said it uses enforcement action only as a last resort.
Mr Wilson fanned the flames by declaring single mothers who fall pregnant will also be evicted, in an open letter to Cllr Gerald White cabinet member for housing.
The letter continues: “It is heartbreaking to (terminate the contracts) but we cannot recruit staff and service the tenants.
“The council has brought this decision on itself.
“It sounds like have a baby and lose your home and that is what it amounts to.”
'Have you ever tried to get a plumber? There is a national shortage...' - Fergus Wilson
Mr Wilson went on to describe the four women as model tenants, but said they had to be kicked out in case their boilers malfunctioned.
He added: “If there were to be a problem with hot water then we cannot get a gas safety engineer in under four days, when the council requires the work to be done ‘immediately’.
“We know we will not be able to comply with that expectation so have brought these tenancies to an end.
“There is no criticism of the tenants whatsoever.”
Mr Wilson continues in his letter that he is willing to take on children over five because the timeframe is more than four days.
Speaking to the Kentish Express, Mr Wilson said the evicted families had two months to move but he would help to ensure they were not left homeless.
He added: “I just can’t risk something going wrong and not being able to get a plumber there in time.
“Have you ever tried to get a plumber? There is a national shortage.”
Mr Wilson sparked outrage last year when details of his policy emerged revealing he had banned 'coloured people' because of the cost of removing the smell of curry at the tenancy’s end.
Speaking about Mr Wilson’s latest policy change, a council spokesman said: “We have a duty to ensure decent standards of housing for tenants who are renting privately.
“We always work with landlords to ensure those standards are met and try to assist them as much as possible.
“Formal enforcement action is very much a last resort but we will take action where necessary.”
More by this authorSean Axtell