Curry smells row landlord ordered to drop 'abhorrent' policy

A property tycoon who banned Indian and Pakistani tenants because he claimed they left his homes smelling of curry has been ordered to drop the "abhorrent" policy.

Fergus Wilson, regarded as Britain's biggest buy-to-let investor, who owns hundreds of properties in Kent, was handed the judgment by Judge Richard Polden in Maidstone County Court on Wednesday.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) sought an injunction against him after he directed a lettings agency not to rent his homes to "coloured" tenants because of curry smells left at the end of the lease.

The EHRC said it asked the court to decide whether his lettings policy contained "unlawful criteria" and if so, to issue an injunction to prevent a breach of equality laws.

Chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: "We welcome this outlawing by the court of Mr Wilson's discriminatory letting policy.

"Denial of a home on the grounds of race or colour is abhorrent conduct we do not accept in today's society.

"There are still deep inequalities in our country, as our race report earlier this year demonstrated, and sadly some of the causes of those inequalities were illustrated by Mr Wilson's comments over the summer.

"Today takes us one step closer to a more equal Britain."

Speaking to the Press Association outside court after the judgment, Mr Wilson maintained there was a "problem" with people "cooking curries" in their homes.

He said: "It gets into the carpets, it gets into the walls.

"You'll find that most landlords think the same. I'm here because I said it."

He said the remarks were "a bit of adolescent banter", adding: "The real issue here is nothing about right or wrong or whether it's lawful, it's really the investment strategy of new entrants to buy-to-let.

"Many of them will not purchase at all now.

"Because of what happened, because of that email being sent off, there will be people who will not be housed, people not buying buy-to-let properties, and the Government needs private investors to buy buy-to-let properties."

He denied being racist, adding: "I have far more coloured people, black people I mean, in Ashford [as tenants] than the average, so therefore I say I can't be racist, otherwise I wouldn't have any."

Mr Wilson previously said he rented to "non-white" people, including Gurkhas, and his stance was based on an economic judgment.

In the past he has also said he will not rent to zero-hours workers, single parents, "battered wives", housing benefit recipients and parents with children under the age of 18.

He had claimed the legal action would put off buy-to-let investors and could add to shortages in the rental sector.

He said: "The would-be buy-to-let investor will take the view I am not going to purchase an off-plan house to rent out because the EHRC are going to force me to take someone who will devalue my property due to curry smells."

Despite having to call in police following online abuse labelling him racist, Mr Wilson had refused to back down and insisted his motivation in enforcing the ban was to avoid financial risk.

The injunction was granted for three years, the EHRC said.

This means Mr Wilson is not allowed to impose policies which stop tenants renting from him because of their race.

If he does not comply with the order he could be found in contempt of court and face a fine or jail, the spokeswoman said.

Mr Wilson has also been told to pay £2,665.90 to cover the EHRC's legal costs.

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