INDEPENDENT (UK) One of the UK’s biggest buy-to-let landlords has instructed agents acting on his behalf, not to let his properties to “coloured people”, because the smell of curry “sticks to the carpet”.
Fergus Wilson’s Kent property empire is thought to number around 1,000 homes in the Ashford and Maidstone areas.
The 70-year-old has form for “offensive directives” regarding who can and cannot rent his properties.
At the start of the year, he told agents not to rent to battered wives, single parents, low income and zero hours workers, or plumbers.
In a second email to agents at Evolution Properties, the landlord — who evicted 200 tenants in 2014 for being on housing benefit — added: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy.”
His request was subsequently leaked to the media.
Defending the directive, Mr Wilson told The Sun: “To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people. It is a problem with certain types of coloured people — those who consume curry — it sticks to the carpet.
“You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”
Dozens of people responded on social media, condemning “vile” and “disgusting” Mr Wilson for racism, and speculating that he would be sued.
Anti-racism charity HOPE not hate told The Independent that the email was an “unacceptable throwback” to the 1960s.
“You simply cannot treat people like this and deny them a place to live due to their skin colour,” a spokesman said. “This is the unacceptable face of the housing crisis. There is something broken in the system when such a powerful figure can get away with such an appalling policy. Fergus Wilson’s comments would seem laughably offensive, a throwback to the Alf Garnett era, if they weren’t so serious in their implication.”
He added: “Mr Wilson should face the full legal implications of his actions. We’d encourage the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate further as a matter of urgency.”
It is currently not a criminal offence to ban any group of people from renting a property you own in the UK, but racial discrimination by landlords is against civil law, so a tenant or a tenants’ rights group could take Mr Wilson to court, according to campaign group Generation Rent.
“Fergus Wilson’s words are a disgraceful throwback to a time when racial discrimination in housing was common in this country, and [although] his actions do not break criminal law, he could be challenged with a civil case under the Equality Act,” the group’s interim director, Dan Wilson Craw, told The Independent.
“The law needs to change,” he added. “It shouldn’t be up to individual renters to have to proactively fight the worst landlords operating in the market,” he said. “Robust landlord licencing that applied to all private lets would mean that the worst landlords could simply be denied a licence if found to discriminate – whether that be on grounds of race, gender, or other life circumstances.”
When asked by the Sun if he had told Evolution not to take “coloured” people, Mr Wilson confirmed he had issued the instructions.
“Certainly at one point we have,” he told the newspaper.
Approached for comment by The Independent an agent at Evolution Properties initially hung up the phone.
Roy Fever, the firm’s manager, later said the company did not support the move.
“We don’t condone this at all,” he said. “We would never implement a policy like that. We put through anyone to the landlord and it is up to the landlord who they take on.”