IHREC alerts landlords, tenants and accommodation advertisers to new equality law

  • ‘Housing Assistance’ incorporated as new ground for protection under equality law
  • Landlords, letting agencies and property advertisers can no longer discriminate in advertising
  • Significant step towards recognition of socio-economic rights in equality legislation

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has today alerted landlords and accommodation advertisers of their legal responsibility to ensure that the practice of discriminating against tenants or prospective tenants, on the basis of being in receipt of housing assistance is immediately stopped.

The Commission welcomes the new “housing assistance” ground in the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 as an important legislative development to safeguard the rights of tenants, and of those seeking rented accommodation who are in receipt of rent supplement, housing assistance payments, or other social welfare payments.

Emily Logan, the Chief Commissioner, said the legislation is also a significant step in recognising socio economic status as a protected ground under equality law.

The Commission today published information for landlords, tenants and accommodation advertisers to alert them of the new legal protection for those in receipt of State supports.

As of the 1st January 2016, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 introduced “housing assistance” as a new ground to protect against discrimination in accommodation. 

This means that people in receipt of housing assistance, rent supplement or other social welfare payments can no longer be discriminated against in relation to the provision of accommodation. Landlords, letting agencies, and property advertisers can no longer discriminate in advertising on this ground.

Ms Logan said: “The Commission believes the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 which is not only an important legislative development to safeguard the rights of tenants, or prospective tenants, but also marks an important move towards the recognition of a socio-economic ground in equality legislation. The Commission would hope that this protection can be expanded further into other areas such as employment and the provision of goods and services, where both poverty and discrimination contribute to social exclusion in our society.”

Ms Logan continued: “We are concerned that landlords and accommodation advertisers may be unaware of this important change, and may be in breach of the new equality law by continuing to specify that rent supplement is not accepted for accommodation purposes.”

“The Commission is aware from accommodation websites and from members of the public that this practice continues and has impacted negatively on individuals and their families who require State support by excluding them from the rental market.”

The Commission will meet shortly with housing NGOs and specialist agencies on the details of the legislation and the coordination of information provision to the public.

In addition to the information published today, the Commission will be writing to landlord associations and accommodation advertisers to inform them in detail of this legal protection for those in receipt of State supports.

Ms Logan concluded: “Landlords and accommodation advertisers now have a responsibility to ensure that the practice of 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 immediately stopped.”

To download a copy of the Commission’s information note for landlords and tenants go to: http://www.ihrec.ie/download/pdf/important_changes_to_equality_law_for_rental_market.pdf

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For further information please contact Niamh Connolly, communications@ihrec.ie or Mobile 087 4399022

Note to Editors:

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) is accredited as an A status national human rights organisation by the International Coordination Committee (ICC), a global network of national human rights institutions. The ICC coordinates the relationship between the NHRIs and the United Nations human rights system by reviewing and accrediting the compliance of NHRIs with the UN Paris Principles.

The Irish Human Rights Commission was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly.

The IHREC published its 2016-2018 Strategy Statement on 26 January 2016. It can be downloaded at http://www.ihrec.ie/download/pdf/strategystatement.pdf

The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015

The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 was signed into law on 10 December 2015 and was commenced on 1 January 2016. It amends sections 3 and 6 of the Equal Status Act of 2000 by the insertion of the following subsection:

“(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”).”

The maximum award that may be made by the Workplace Relations Commission for discrimination/discriminatory advertising is €15,000.

The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 is available in full on the Commission’s website here: http://www.ihrec.ie/download/pdf/equality_miscellaneous_provisions_act_2015.pdf

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