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Woman who claimed landlord's son called her a 'black c**t' and had tenancy terminated awarded €12k

The woman said she was given notice to quit the property two days after informing the landlord she applied for rent supplement.

Image: Shutterstock/inxti

A BLACK WOMAN who alleged that she was discriminated against by her landlord has been awarded €12,000 following a hearing before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The American national claimed that she and her husband were given notice to leave their home after informing the landlord they had applied for rent supplement.

She further alleged that the landlord’s son called her a “black bitch” and a “black c**t” during a later confrontation. 

Rent supplement

The woman submitted that she had rented the property with her husband, two children and her mother for a period of seven months before she said she was forced to apply for rent supplement when her husband lost his job.

She said she asked the landlord to sign the relevant forms to avail of rent supplement, and he quickly returned them to her.

However, two days later, the woman claimed she received notice to vacate the property in a months’ time.

She was granted the rent supplement, and the landlord gave her an extra two weeks before they had to leave the property.

The woman claims that before she received notice to leave the property, she was subject to “intimidating and hostile treatment”, particularly from the landlord’s son who lived in the adjoining house and was in control of some utilities such as the oil for the heating.

She said she informed the landlord of various alleged incidents – including the son demanding heaters he loaned them be returned when he knew there was no oil in the tank to heat the home and the son taking away and destroying a trampoline and basketball net he’d given them.

In response, she said the landlord replied that he called her “street brawlers” for mentioning the problems with his son, and also accused her of being imprudent with money. 

In a later incident, the woman said the landlord’s son blocked her car in a car park where she’d brought her children to a playground. She alleged he called her a “black c**t” and a black bitch, and she reported the incident to gardaí.

She said the relationship completely changed with the landlord when she said she was applying for rent supplement, and claimed she was discriminated against on these grounds.

Defence

In his submission to the WRC, the woman’s landlord said he agreed that he signed the forms for her to sign up for rent supplement.

But, on the date he did so, he said that the rent for that month was already several days late. 

The WRC adjudicator described his position: “It was decided given the irregularity of the payment of the rent to terminate the tenancy. A notice of termination of the lease was issued on 15 December.

The [landlord] stated that the application for rent supplement did not influence the decision to terminate the lease. He said that he knew that the complainant’s husband had lost his job but there was no guarantee that they would qualify for the rent supplement.

He said the decision to terminate the tenancy was based on their rent payment record over the previous six months, as they had been in arrears on a number of occasions.

The landlord said her case had been appealed to the Residential Tenancies Board and she was not evicted. She remained in the tenancy a further four months after the initial date she was told to leave the property.

Furthermore, he submitted that any issues the woman had with his son were “irrelevant as he is not a party to the proceedings”. He said he wasn’t made aware of any alleged harassment on his son’s part.

Decision

In the decision made, the WRC adjudicator said: “I cannot accept that the reason for the termination was only due to delayed payments of the rent in some instances, particularly as these payments were delayed rather withheld or not honoured.

It seems that it is more than likely, from the proximity of the request to sign for rent supplement and the notice of the termination of the tenancy, that the reason was connected to the application for rent supplement.
It is surprising, given that the Respondent’s issues with the Complainant were about paying the rent on time and were the reasons given for the termination of the tenancy, the Respondent still choose to terminate the tenancy even though he now had confirmation that the rent supplement would be paid.

As a result, the adjudicator ruled that a prime facie case of discriminatory treatment on housing assistance grounds had been made, which the landlord had failed to rebut.

The adjudicator also said there was no prima facie evidence she was discriminated against on the grounds of her race when the landlord terminated the tenancy.

However, given the landlord’s son was her point of contact when issues arose in the tenancy, the adjudicator was satisfied that the landlord was “vicariously liable” for the son’s actions under the appropriate legislation.

The adjudicator said they were satisfied on the evidence that the landlord’s son had subjected her to a “hostile and intimidating environment and called her offensive names” which constituted harassment. 

The maximum compensation that could be awarded in this case is €15,000.

The adjudicator said: “In considering the amount of compensation that I should award, I have noted the effects of the discriminatory treatment has had on the Complainant.

I note the serious nature of the abuse and harassment on the race ground experienced by the complainant which she believed put the safety of herself and her family at risk. In the circumstances, an award of €12,000 is appropriate.

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Sean Murray

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