LONDON — The UK equality watchdog has begun formal legal action against property tycoon Fergus Wilson after he instructed his letting agent to ban Indian and Pakistani tenants from his properties because they left a “curry smell.”
It was reported in March that Wilson, who owns around 1,000 homes in Kent, emailed a local letting agency, saying: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy.”
On Thursday the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced that it is seeking a court injunction against Wilson, whose £250 million sale of his property empire is ongoing.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, the commission’s chief executive, said in a statement: “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.
“As this is now formal legal action we will release further information at a later date.”
Wilson responded to the legal action by telling The Guardian on Thursday:
“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.”
Wilson’s letting criterion of “no coloured people” is potentially in breach of section 13 of the Equality Act 2010, which bans direct discrimination on the grounds of race, the EHRC said.
It said that if the court grants an injunction that Wilson complies with, “then nothing more will happen. However, if he breaches the injunction and continues to apply the discriminatory criterion, this could be contempt of court which could result in a fine.”
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