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Tycoon who banned 'coloured' tenants over curry smells could face legal action

A property tycoon who banned "coloured" tenants from renting his homes because he claims they make them smell of curry faces the prospect of legal action.

Fergus Wilson, 69, insisted he was not racist and that it was an "economic decision" made after he was left thousands of pounds out of pocket from ridding a home of curry smells.

Mr Wilson, long regarded as Britain's biggest buy-to-let investor with hundreds of properties in Kent, faced a backlash after an email surfaced setting out his ban to a letting agent.

The email, leaked to The Sun newspaper, listed his requirements for potential tenants, including: "No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy."

Now the Equality and Human Rights Commission has pledged to investigate and ask Mr Wilson to explain his actions amid comparisons to the "Alf Garnett era" of 1960s Britain.

Its chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath described Mr Wilson's remarks as "truly disgusting" and added: "Unless we are satisfied that he will not commit unlawful acts in the future we will take legal action."

But Mr Wilson was defiant. He said he "probably must have" sent the email, and that he would send it again to avoid being saddled with the cost of removing curry smells from one of his homes.

He said: "The problem is the smell gets in the carpets, particularly the bloody carpets. It's the cost of re-carpeting, which in a decent detached house can be rather expensive.

"So all your profits for maybe a year or more is now going on new carpets."

He added: "If that makes me racist, that makes 99% of people who buy houses racist.

"How many white people are going to go into a house that smells of curry and are going to buy the house? They are just going to walk away like me and not make an offer."

Mr Wilson, who has also banned plumbers from renting his homes after claiming he had been ripped off in the past, said he was happy to rent to "negros" as "they haven't generated a curry smell at the end of the tenancy".

But he was "wary" of letting to Indians after losing more than £12,000 in rent and re-carpeting costs over a six-month period because one of his properties smelled of curry.

Mr Wilson added: "I have taken an economic view, not a racist view. And I'm saying I believe 99% of other British people would do precisely the same."

In a competitive housing market where demand for rental properties outstrips supply, Mr Wilson said: "There are more people that want the properties, so why have the headache of this afterwards?"

He added it was difficult to recoup the cost of ridding a property of curry smells.

He said: "The other thing is when you start pursuing people through the courts, the judge will say to you, 'Right, where's the photograph?'

"You can't take a photograph of a smell, can you?" Mr Wilson said.

The Hope Not Hate group said Mr Wilson should face legal action.

A Hope Not Hate spokesman said: "You simply cannot treat people like this and deny them a place to live due to their skin colour.

"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."

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