Father Wins Case Against Dublin Letting Agent’s Housing Discrimination

Commission provided legal representation to man in bringing his case

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has welcomed a ruling issued today from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in favour of a man who challenged a letting agency for the discrimination he faced as a recipient of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). The Commission provided the man with legal representation in taking his case.

The 32 year old father, who moved to Dublin to secure work, had viewed the rental property, agreed a tenancy, signed the agreement and paid a deposit. Then while finalising the rental he disclosed that he was using the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) only to be chastised by the letting agent for not disclosing this sooner as the landlord didn’t like HAP. Subsequently he was informed by the agent that the landlord had rented the property to someone else.

The man shared custody of his then 2 year old daughter, and having his own place was a priority to allow him have his daughter stay with him. As a direct consequence of walking into the premises in April 2019, and experiencing an outright rejection of his agreed tenancy, the WRC heard that he experienced emotional trauma, which caused him to leave his job, suffer increased anxiety, move home and completely withdraw from the world. His recovery from this has taken a considerable period.

The WRC ruling noted that the letting agent had not engaged with the WRC investigation process, noting that this amounted to “staggering disrespect for a statutory Tribunal.”

The WRC found that the man had been discriminated against on the grounds of Housing assistance, and that the discrimination had an enduring and detrimental effect on his personal life which is contrary to the intention of the HAP scheme. Housing assistance as a grounds for discrimination was introduced in 2016.

The WRC ordered that the letting agent pay compensation of €8,500 to the man. It also ordered the agency to immediately equality-proof the application process for its tenancies, to include a standard operating procedure with a chronological documentation of the process to record both parties involvement in the entire process. The letting agent was finally ordered to familiarise themselves with HAP and the statutory importance of the Equal Status Act.

WRC Adjudication Officer Patsy Doyle in her adjudication stated: “To have a housing need carries a certain vulnerability. The Government body had sanctioned the Complainant for a Social House but did not have one available to allocate. HAP is a stop gap between Homelessness and Housing and is an empowerment for tenants and a commercially sound transaction for Landlords. A Universal declaration of dislike of HAP coupled with withdrawal of service constitutes a blanket ban.”

The father who took the case stated:I’d like to thank the IHREC for their dedication and perseverance. Discrimination against citizens for receiving financial assistance from the State is abhorrent, elitist and utterly archaic. It inhibits and undermines social progress. I hope this decision will encourage landlords and estate agents to uphold citizen’s rights, and will give tenants the confidence to demand the same.”

Sinéad Gibney Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Landlords and letting agents need to get the message that discriminating against tenants and prospective tenants on the basis of being in receipt of rent allowance, housing assistance payments, and other social welfare payments is illegal.

“The first half of 2020 has seen almost 20% of all public queries to our advice line about discrimination in services related to housing. It’s clear that we are seeing a trend of systemic discrimination against people in receipt of housing assistance payments, which needs to be tackled not only through individual complaints but through additional policy measures.”

ENDS/

Notes to Editor

For further information, please contact:

Karen Joynt, IHREC
01 8589601 / 085 1746883
kjoynt@ihrec.ie
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

The full decision of the Adjudication Officer in this case is available at the following link:
https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2020/august/adj-00023816.html

The Housing Assistance Ground under the Equal Status Acts

As of 1 January 2016, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 introduced “housing assistance” as a new ground to protect against discrimination in accommodation. Landlords and accommodation advertisers have a responsibility to ensure that they do not discriminate against tenants and prospective tenants on the basis of being in receipt of rent allowance, housing assistance payments, and other social welfare payments.

The Commission’s Your Rights service saw 57 queries on the HAP ground under the Equal Status Act for the first six months of 2020. This was the second the highest ground and made up 19% of the total ESA queries (293).

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

a) the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal advice to the applicant;
b) the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal representation to the applicant
c) the provision of such other assistance to the applicant as the Commission deems appropriate in the circumstances;

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