Fergus Wilson, a millionaire landlord in the UK who garnered massive attention for banning "coloured" tenants from renting his properties, is now facing legal action. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has sought a court injunction against Wilson.
"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," chief executive of EHRC Rebecca Hilsenrath told the Guardian.
We can confirm we have started legal proceedings against Mr Fergus Wilson. As this is now formal action we will say more at a later date.— EHRC (@EHRC) May 17, 2017
Wilson, who owns around 1,000 homes in Kent, is said to have emailed his agent specific terms and conditions on who can and cannot rent his properties. "No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy," the mail had said. Additionally, the landlord is also said to have refused to let out his properties to "battered wives" and workers on zero-hour contracts.
While the EHRC is also investigating these terms, the 69-year-old seems to stand by his conditions and says that he put them forward on "economic grounds."
"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."
Revealing that he made the decision after one of his properties smelled of curry after the tenants left, he said that hasn't let out homes to Indians or Pakistani's since 2012. "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."
Explaining his terms on zero-hour contract workers, the millionaire said that the move stems from the fact that "no one will guarantee the rent" of such people. While the EHRC believes that Wilson's terms clearly discriminate against people on the basis of race, he is confident that the equality watchdog has nothing to hold against him. He also believes that he is in no way racist.
The matter is sorted in case the court grants the injunction and Wilson complies with it, but if he continues to put forward these conditions despite the injunction, the millionaire could be penalised for contempt of court.