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Buy-to-let millionaire who bans ‘coloured’ people faces legal action

The equality watchdog has begun formal legal action against buy-to-let mogul Fergus Wilson after he told his letting agent to ban “coloured” tenants because they left curry smells in his properties.

It emerged in March that Wilson, who owns nearly 1,000 homes across Ashford and Maidstone in Kent, emailed a local letting agency, Evolution, saying: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy.”

Following an investigation, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is seeking a court injunction against Wilson.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, its chief executive, said: “We have asked the court if it agrees with us that Mr Wilson’s lettings policy contains unlawful criteria and, if so, to issue an injunction.”

The EHRC is also investigating allegations that Wilson has banned “battered wives” and people on zero-hours contracts from renting his properties.

An unrepentant Wilson said he stands by his ban on Indian and Pakistani tenants and will fight the EHRC in court. He confirmed that he had added the ban to the bottom an of an email. He told the Guardian: “I personally find Indian and Pakistani people, and also coloured people in general to be extremely intelligent people. And I know quite a number.

“We had a problem with a tenant who had dogs, which fouled the carpet. I say no pets and no smoking, and no one gets upset about that. I tacked on to the email ‘no coloured people because of curry smells’. When you rent a property, no one is going to take it if it smells of curry.”

He said he has had no Indian or Pakistani tenants since 2012, and that his ban stems from a property he bought a few years ago. “After buying it I found it stunk of curry. I thought I could get rid of the smell but I couldn’t. I had to replace all the carpets and the wallpaper. It took a very long time.”

Wilson said he is confident that he can defeat the EHRC in court. “When getting an injunction you have to apply for damages. And there aren’t any. They [the EHRC] are saying to me you have refused to take Indian and Pakistani people. I say where? Point to it. I think it is not reasonable to say that what I said was racist.”

The property tycoon, who has previously announced the £250m sale of his empire but says the process is taking a long time, said he will be representing himself in court.

Adding to the controversy are reports that Wilson has included further critieria to his list of banned tenants, including single mums, battered wives and workers on zero-hour contracts.

In a statement, the EHRC said: “Regarding Mr Wilson’s new ban on female victims of domestic violence, zero-hours contract workers and single parents renting his properties, our legal team are now looking into how to deal with this.”

But Wilson claims the alleged ban has been taken out of context. He said: “I’m not saying no battered wives or zero-hours contracts. What I’m saying is that no one will guarantee the rent of people on zero-hours contracts.

“If you can find someone to be a guarantor, they can then sub-let to a battered wife. We’re just saying we don’t take them because they must have a rent guarantee as part of the landlord’s insurance demanded by the mortgage companies.”

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