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Landlord who refused rent allowance payment from family ordered to pay €14,000

The landlord has 42 days in which to make the €14,000 payment to the couple.

A LANDLORD WHO refused to allow a family pay a portion of their rent through rent allowance for 15 months has been ordered to pay them €14,000 in compensation.

In the case, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer, Ewa Sobanska said that she was ordering the landlord to pay €7,000 to each parent in the case as she found the discrimination “to be at the more serious end of the scale”.

Sobanska said that she was making the award taking into account the financial hardship, stress, inconvenience and financial and emotional pressures suffered by the couple as a result of the landlord’s refusal to participate in the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

The landlord has 42 days in which to make the €14,000 payment to the couple.

The couple had been requesting the landlord to allow them pay rent allowance through HAP since May of last year where landlords must register to allow tenants participate in the scheme.

However, in March of this year, the couple allege that they received a letter from their landlord with “there is your HAP” written on the envelope.

After opening the envelope the couple discovered that it was an eviction letter.

Rent deal

The couple has four children aged 13, nine, six and two and had entered a long-term rent deal of €950 per month in December 2015 with the landlord.

The couple were struggling to pay the rent and inquired with the landlord in May of last year about participating in HAP and he replied: “We can talk but it’s most unlikely that I will be doing HAP.”

In January of this year, the couple sent on to the landlord correspondence from Threshold advising that “a landlord must accept HAP and to refuse this is considered discrimination”.

After the ‘termination’ letter in March of this year, the landlord wrote to the couple to state that he did not refuse to facilitate the HAP assistance application but was not in a position to do so as a result of not having a Tax Clearance Certificate. 

He further stated that he has been attempting to rectify the situation and the request for HAP assistance “has absolutely nothing to do with ending your tenancy”.

Financial hardship

In the case, the couple gave examples of the consequent financial hardship and detriment suffered which compromised their quality of life as a family. 

The couple secured a new accommodation from 9 July last. The agreed rent is €1,150 and they secured HAP assistance of €858 as of 13 August 2018.   

They stated that due to time constraints and the challenging circumstances of the property market they had to downgrade to an apartment. 

They submitted that this is not an ideal situation with four kids and they also own a dog. 

They were also not in a position to move garden furniture and children’s play equipment such as trampoline, slides etc, which were acquired bearing in mind the originally agreed long-term tenancy arrangement. 

The couple said that as they were unable to get HAP for their previous home, they had to meet the shortfall with loans.

Focus Ireland

Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, Mike Allen stated today that it welcomes the decision of the WRC in the two cases and the scale of the order against the landlord.

“A penalty of this size should act as a disincentive to other landlords and the growing evidence is that the WRC is willing to take action against landlords who discriminate should help reduce the number of such new cases,” he said. 

Allen said however that while the level of penalty is high, “it does not recompense the family for the loss of their family home”.

“The judgement is particularly welcome because it shows that the WRC will not accept secondary issues – such as failure to have a tax clearance cert – as an excuse for not accepting HAP tenants,” he said. 

“This judgement shows that not having your own taxes in order is not an acceptable reason for discriminating against low-income families who need HAP.”