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Tenants 'often' unable to make discrimination complaint about landlords, report finds

The findings come as the Government reviews Ireland’s equality laws.

TENANTS ARE “OFTEN” unable to make discrimination complaints about their landlords within the necessary two-month timeframe because they cannot find out their landlord’s address, a report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said.

This is one of several barriers facing tenants and prospective tenants.

New research from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) sets out how tenants face multiple discrimination in accessing, or maintaining, a rented home in Ireland because of their use of Housing Assistance payments.

Each year between 2016 and 2020, the percentage of public queries to the IHREC specifically on Housing Assistance related discrimination was consistently between 70% and 79% of all private rental queries, with an average of 124 cases per annum.

The findings come as the Government reviews Ireland’s equality laws.

The report highlights some of the reasons why people are reluctant to report discrimination, which include:

  • Fear of victimisation,
  • The lack of alignment between the Residential Tenancies Board and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC),
  • Issues related to the compensation ceiling and notification requirement,
  • The length of time involved in making WRC process, which undermines the effectiveness of legal remedies.

The report also highlights the need for the Residential Tenancy Board to be empowered to share information with the WRC and other statutory bodies where appropriate (eg. Revenue in the case of unregistered landlords).

Among the report’s 14 recommendations for specific reforms, are:

  • Prohibit harassment on the housing assistance ground.
  • Remove the compensation ceiling to enable WRC awards to reflect the harm caused by the more detrimental instances of discrimination.
  • Allow organisations to refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on behalf on an individual.
  • Address the fact that there is no legal obligation for a landlord to provide a tenant with their address, and if a landlord cannot be served, it is a significant barrier in tenants accessing justice in cases of discrimination.

Sinéad Gibney, chief commissioner of the IHREC, said: “This report shows that much more needs to be done to tackle systemic discrimination against tenants in receipt of housing assistance and proposes a number of clear and tangible recommendations to achieve this.”

The research, authored by Rory Hearne and Judy Walsh, is called “Housing Assistance and Discrimination – A Scoping Study on the ‘Housing Assistance Ground’ under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018”.

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