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26/09/2021

Things! Useful and allowing for schadenfreude

An assortment of useful and amusing things for a Sunday.

First, the many and varied changes to the notice periods and validity periods of section 21 notices over the last 18 months has caused headaches for all involved in trying to calculate the relevant dates. It has also added about four pages to the ‘section 21 validity flowchart’ that I’ve been maintaining (and which will need to be updated again for 1 October 2021.

But now my rather excellent Anthony Gold colleague Nick Hanning has given me, and by extension you all, a present in the form of an Excel calculator for checking the validity of expiry dates of section 21 notices and the relevant ‘use it or lose it’ periods for starting possession proceedings. This works for pre covid, the varying covid regulations periods, and post 30 September 2021 notice periods. (Nick does not practice in housing law, but created this for reasons, and I am very glad that he did! I’ve tried it out, so it follows that any errors are mine.)

The calculator can be downloaded here, and is also on the ‘Section 21 Flowchart’ page.

And now Schadenfreude…

Ashford Borough Council v Wilson (2021) EWHC 2542 (QB)

Fergus Wilson, (for yes, it is he), has quite a track record of legal proceedings related to him behaving badly. See, for example, here and here for some of the track record, involving local councils, the EHRC, and CPS. He is the private landlord that drives other private landlords to despair by so enthusiastically meeting the stereotype of the worst kind of private landlord. And now he has a permanent injunction against him obtained by Ashford Borough Council to prevent harassment of ABC’s officers, employees and councillors by Fergus Wilson.

The judgment is well worth a read. The relentless tide of insults and suggestions that various councillors and officers kill themselves extends across some 454 letters and emails between February 2016 and July 2020, often with multiple recipients, and despite ABC requesting that he keep to a single point of contact.

A repeated theme is Fergus Wilson’s attemtp to blame the council for his own choices, both in who he would let to and for his decisions to evict tenants. For example:

“It is you alone that has resulted in my not taking children 0-5 years. I do take them 5 to 17 years and appear to be the only Private Sector Landlord who will.”

“There was wrongdoing by W which I say lost the family their home.”

“When he receives a report he should attend! He does not! He tries to do it from the armchair. He just forwards it to the Landlord who takes it at face value and acts accordingly. That means ending the tenancy! He is losing tenants their homes!”

“Another tenant has been evicted by the County Court Bailiff this morning in Ashford. That brings the total to five.
All five could and should have been avoided.
You are the Council Leader and you must accept full responsibility!”

Wilson has previously said he would not let properties to victims of domestic abuse. It is perhaps not a surprise then to find him using the ‘look what you made me do’ line to those he is insulting and threatening.

Rather incredibly, according to the Kent Online report of the hearing, Wilson’s witness statement attempted to suggest that because people personally insulted him, it was fine for him to insult council officers.

In support of an argument that his conduct was appropriate, one piece of evidence that Mr Wilson reportedly submitted to the court was a photo of himself taken with the hashtag “Fat ****” written underneath, presumably taken from social media, although this was not specified.

Mr Solomon said: “The argument goes, insofar as it is coherent, is that if it is OK for people to call the defendant a ‘fat ****’, it is okay for him to refer to (the victim) in the way that he does”.

The council’s representative went on to say that they argued this was not an appropriate way to write to the court.

The broader context was various proceedings against Fergus Wilson or Mrs Wilson, it appears largely to involve Housing Act 2004 improvement notices or proceedings arising from breach of notices.

Now while it is quite easy to laugh at Wilson’s many and various threats of prosecution for misfeasance, or judicial review, or complaints to the SRA, none of which of course happened, and at his personal insults aimed at officers and councillors of ABC, the High Court was alive to his aims.

The Defendant’s conduct repeatedly went far beyond merely irritating and annoying. It was deliberately offensive. It included numerous unfounded allegations of professional misconduct and criminal conduct. It included multiple threats of criminal or other legal proceedings which were never pursued. The Defendant’s conduct amounted to harassment within the terms of s.1(1)(a).

The Defendant knew or ought to have known that his conduct amounted to harassment (see s.1(1)(b). He had been informed on numerous occasions by the Claimants that it amounted to harassment. Any reasonable person in possession of the same information would recognise that the Defendant’s conduct amounted to harassment (see s.1(2)).

The Claimant’s conduct was intended to cause alarm, upset and distress. It did cause alarm, upset and distress.

A significant proportion of the Defendant’s correspondence was intended to persuade the Claimants (and the officers/employees they represent in these proceedings) not to do something they were entitled to do or to do something they were not under an obligation to do (s.1(1A)(c)). The most obvious and significant examples are (i) his attempts to have Councillors or council employees disciplined or sacked on the basis of unfounded allegations, and (ii) his attempts to pressure the First Claimant into abandoning/withdrawing legal proceedings against him/his wife.

If Wilson breaches the injunction, (which is possible as he had apparently breached the interim injunction to some degree), committal proceedings would be quite something.

While in Schadenfreude Corner, Landlords Defence – a non-lawyer commercial set-up that bills itself as defending landlords on regulatory licensing and Rent Repayment Order matters, and takes what can only be described as a frenziedly hyperbolic approach to describing the actions of local authorities in Housing Act 2004/Housing and Planning Act 2016 enforcement, turned out to be using NL material without request or permission.

Our copyright requirements are quite simple but clear on this – no use of our material for commercial/for profit projects without the permission of the author.

So, I contacted Landlords Defence, pointing out this was a breach of my copyright and asking for it to be removed.

To their credit, they did remove it. To their debit, they left this marvellously peevish message in its place. (Update, yes I am aware of what they have now put on that page. It is absolutely, if wholly inadvertently, hilarious. I wouldn’t have them change it for the world.)

I would strongly advise everyone not to seek advice from Landlords Defence on copyright…

 

 

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

11 Comments

  1. Ron Platt

    Is it possible there is a sister Organisation “Copyright Defence”?

    Reply
  2. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    “(Peaker) is sufficiently worried about the effectiveness of Landlord Licensing & Defence – to make us the subject of his “nearly legal” newsletter”.

    Criticism actually being an endorsement of how great we are, the kind of twisted reverse logic our Des employs in his defence cases.

    Presumably the judge’s comments in Leibel v. Baird earlier this year ” the lies and deceit practised by the Respondent is some of the most serious that this Tribunal has seen.” are also a ringing endorsement of their services.

    Reply
  3. David

    Thanks for the Calculator, great idea, Can you ask Nick for the password as having a few issues with it?

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      It is locked for use. What problems are you having?

      Reply
  4. David

    I guess one would call it error handling, it says OK after some fields but not others. If I could unlock it I could see where I am going wrong. If I can improve it I would of course email it back to you. Also Date of Service is simple enough but what is issue date. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      The first field doesn’t get an OK because there is no ‘validity’ check on it. Ditto the second field. Those dates just are what they are. Issue date is date of issue of claim

      Reply
  5. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    If I was a disgruntled landlord I’d be desperately crowd funding like mad to get a piece of Des’s time and wisdom.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      As opposed to using your (as disgruntled landlord) own money?

      Reply
  6. David

    It is a good idea but hardly rocket science, I understand useful to lock to make it user friendly but no IP here. No worries, I will just write my own, Thanks for the effort and idea. I think I will do one for the RRO’s too.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      David, you are missing the point. It is working as it should. You haven’t got what each field is for and why only some have an OK/Not OK result. Just think about it…

      And locked because we don’t want anyone circulating their own, potentially iffy versions as if by Anthony Gold and from this site. Hardly IP in the formulae!

      An RRO one would be very straightforward.

      Reply

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