Compensation Granted in Housing Assistance Discrimination Case

Commission Provided Legal Representation in Bringing Case

 The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) provided legal assistance to a woman in her successful challenge of discrimination under the ‘housing assistance’ ground in the provision of accommodation.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which heard the case, determined that she had been directly discriminated against on the housing assistance ground, and ordered €2,500 in compensation to be paid. The WRC also instructed that all employees acting as the company’s estate agents are provided with the proper appropriate training in relation to all provisions of the Equal Status Acts.

Under its legal functions, set out in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the Commission can, in certain circumstances, provide legal assistance to a person who wishes to bring a matter of human rights or equality of treatment before the Courts or the Workplace Relations Commission

The case focused on the woman’s experience in viewing and seeking to confirm a property for rental in March 2016. In their exchanges about the property, the Estate Agent asked the woman about her personal circumstances, and she explained that she had been working as a nurse up until 2014 when she had to take time out due to ill health. She further informed the Estate Agent that she was in receipt of rent supplement.

The Estate Agent indicated that he would require written proof of her rent supplement and confirmation of the amount of the benefit. Despite the woman presenting a letter from her social welfare office confirming her award of rent supplement, the Estate Agent requested to speak directly with her Community Welfare Office (CWO) and despite being reluctant, she agreed.

In his conversation with the CWO the Estate Agent said that he would not be willing to hold the property while her application for rent supplement was being processed, nor would he cancel the rest of the viewings for the property if the CWO gave him a decision over the phone. The Estate Agent said “I have people downstairs willing to pay cash” and would not hold or guarantee the property for the complainant even though the CWO also assured him that the Department of Social Protection would also pay the deposit.

The woman was the first prospective tenant to view the property and promptly told the Estate Agent that she would take it, and gave him the letter confirming her award of rent supplement. After the viewing, the woman contacted the CWO who confirmed that her application for rent supplement had been approved and asked for permission to lodge the deposit into the landlord’s bank account. However, when the woman contacted the Estate Agent to inform him of this he told her that the property had gone

In their adjudication of the case, the WRC found that the complainant’s evidence was ‘wholly credible and undisputed’ and that the action of the estate agent in speaking with the CWO cast aspersions on the credibility of the complainant.

Emily Logan Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Since January 2016, when the Equal Status Act was amended, discrimination against prospective tenants of rental properties is prohibited under the ‘housing assistance’ ground. This means that the fact that a person wishing to rent a property is on housing assistance or other social welfare supports cannot be a reason to refuse them.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Visit our website www.ihrec.ie or follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to Editor

The full decision of the Adjudication Officer in this case is available at the following link:

http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2017/November/ADJ-00002629.html

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

Under its legal functions set out in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the Commission can, in certain circumstances, provide legal assistance to a person who wishes to bring a matter of human rights or equality of treatment before the Courts or the Workplace Relations Commission.

Assistance under Section 40 of the Act means any or all of the following

  1. the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal advice to the applicant;
  2. the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal representation to the applicant
  3. the provision of such other assistance to the applicant as the Commission deems appropriate in the circumstances;

The Equal Status Acts state:

Section (3B)

For the purposes of section 6(1)(c), the discriminatory grounds shall (in addition to the grounds specified in subsection (2)) include the ground that as between any two persons, that one is in receipt of rent supplement (within the meaning of section 6(8)), housing assistance (construed in accordance with Part 4 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014) or any payment under the Social Welfare Acts and the other is not (the “housing assistance ground”).

Section 6(1)(c)

A person shall not discriminate in— …(c) subject to subsection (1A), providing accommodation or any services or amenities related to accommodation or ceasing to provide accommodation or any such services or amenities.

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