A WOMAN WHO took her landlord to the Workplace Relations Commission over his refusal to accept the Housing Assistance Payment scheme has been awarded €7,000.
The commission also ordered the landlord to accept HAP payments from his local authority arising from the case, which was brought under the Equal Status Act.
The complainant, a long-term tenant of the landlord, brought the case in August this year after claiming she had been discriminated against over his refusal to accept the scheme.
The landlord told the commission that personal family circumstances prevented him from accepting the scheme because he intended for his children to move into the house.
Giving evidence, the complainant told the commission how she and her husband paid €1,700 a month in rent to the landlord, which was afforded in part with €1,094 in monthly rent supplement.
Without rent supplement, she said that the couple did not earn enough to pay the rent themselves.
The woman explained that her husband worked between 24 and 30 hours a week, but was unable to work more than this because doing so would disqualify the couple from receiving rent supplement.
She also told the commission that she received Carers Allowance, as one of her children required extra care, which enabled her to work up to fifteen hours per week.
But she explained that, like her husband, if she took up further employment it would mean she would be disqualified from receiving rent supplement.
The woman submitted that by refusing to accept HAP, the landlord was treating the family less favourably and putting them at a financial disadvantage, causing them to struggle every month.
Notice to quit
She also said that if she and her husband could avail of the HAP scheme, then he could work more hours every week and she would be able to take up part-time employment without losing assistance in rental payment.
However, despite raising the matter with her landlord a number of times and explaining how accepting HAP would positively impact her family, he would not accept the scheme.
Eventually, the woman decided to lodge a complaint with the commission.
However, on the same day she received a response to her complaint from her landlord, she was given a notice to quit, informing her that her family would have to vacate the property by December 2018.
She told the commission about her belief that this notice was sent in bad faith, as sometime last year, the landlord told her that his children lived in another house that he owned in Dublin.
The woman also alleged that around four years ago, the landlord called her to tell her that he needed her house for his children, but that on that occasion, the situation was resolved with a rent increase.
The woman said that it never seemed that the landlord needed the house for his children, and that he was reticent to enter into the HAP scheme because of the standards required of dwellings if he accepted the scheme.
In response, the landlord said he first heard about the tenant’s desire to enter into the HAP scheme earlier this year.
He told the commission that he explained to the woman that it was not for him to enter into the scheme because of his family circumstances and because it would entail a long-term binding contract.
The landlord said he was annoyed that the woman had asked about his private affairs and had disclosed private text messages from him to the commission.
He said it was abundantly clear that he had no reason to discriminate against the woman, and claimed that he was appalled that she was making an “egregious accusation of discrimination” against him.
The landlord said he had two children in university in Dublin and had a third who would be joining them, all of whom were in desperate need of accommodation.
He alleged that it had always been his intention to notify the woman that he would not be renewing her tenancy when it expired in December.
The landlord accepted that that the woman had been a good tenant for the last seven years, but stated his view that if he entered into the HAP scheme, it would be hard to break it.
He claimed that he had originally bought the property to house his children when they went to college.
When he received notice about a complaint to the commission, he decided to send the woman a notice to quit.
The landlord said that although he was “hot” about the issue, he was happy to give the woman a reference letter as she had requested.
He also told the commission that he was aware it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of HAP, but that he did not want to tie himself to a long-term HAP contract.
The landlord denied there was a link between the notification to him of a complaint having been made to the WRC and the quit notice he sent to the woman, though he did admit that one may have been a “trigger” for the other.
He added that there was no problem with the house being up to the standards required of dwellings in the HAP scheme.
In its findings, the commission found that the landlord only aired his desire to use the house for his children when the woman introduced a request to apply for HAP payments.
An adjudicator found that the woman’s evidence that there were reasons other than those given by the landlord to explain his refusal to enter into the HAP scheme was credible.
They said they were satisfied that the landlord’s ongoing refusal to accept HAP from his local authority amounted to less-favourable treatment when compared with a tenant who did not require HAP.
Accordingly, they found that the landlord discriminated against the woman on the grounds of HAP ground and awarded her €7,000, and also ordered the landlord to accept the scheme in future.
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