Landlord News

Britain’s Biggest Landlord Caught in Brexit Chaos

Em Morley - June 30, 2016

Britain’s biggest and most notorious landlord, Fergus Wilson, has been caught in Brexit chaos as he attempts to sell his 900-property strong portfolio.

Wilson had planned to sell his entire portfolio to a pool of foreign investors, including both wealthy individuals and institutions. However, many buyers are pulling out of deals following last week’s EU referendum.

The Telegraph has reported that Wilson is still waiting for a large number of exchanges to complete, meaning that some deals could potentially collapse amid Brexit uncertainty.

Lawyers and property firms are warning that large numbers of buyers are postponing or pulling out of deals as a result of the Brexit, over fears that economic uncertainty would make their purchase unaffordable, or hoping that prices will drop over the coming months or years.

A number of firms have reported that residential property deals are falling, with one firm, The Partnership, claiming that 50% of deals are collapsing.

At the end of last year, Wilson announced his intention to sell his entire £250m portfolio, saying he was sorry to say goodbye to his properties, but “common sense must prevail”.

However, Wilson believes that other buy-to-let landlords will become richer as a result of the Brexit, as tighter immigration policies, proposed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are likely to lead to better quality tenants.

He explains: “I don’t think Brexit will have much effect on buy-to-let house prices, because they’re mainly cheaper properties worth less than £500,000 outside of London, so the prices don’t have as far to fall.

“People have got to have somewhere to live, and immigration is forcing up rents at the bottom of the market. Vultures like myself have bought all the cheap properties, and we put in them the people who are able to afford the rent.”

He continues: “At the moment, the vast majority of my tenants are Eastern Europeans who work in low-skilled work but are cash rich. Poorer English people are totally off my radar – they don’t really get a look in, as they are mainly in council houses.

“I think the points system being designed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove will help landlords because it will help us get better quality tenants. They won’t send the ones that are already here home, and if they only let skilled ones in, that means better tenants for us.

“Ten years ago, I housed a lot of single mums and battered wives who were a good category of tenant. They were pretty good at paying the money and looking after the houses. But then in about 2005, the Eastern Europeans started coming and they made really good tenants. I haven’t advertised a property for five years because they always ask, ‘Can my friend move in?’”

Wilson adds that he did not vote in the EU referendum, but if he did, he would have voted to leave.

He says: “I let the leave campaign put posters up on my land and I was looking for a big, big queue like on Nigel Farage’s poster. But I couldn’t see them.”1 

1 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/27/britains-biggest-landlord-caught-in-brexit-turmoil—as-he-attem/