A mother suffered increased panic attacks and anxiety in fear of herself, her partner and their two-year-old daughter being rendered homeless after their landlord refused to accept rent supplement payments.
Now, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld the woman’s discrimination claim against her landlord and has ordered the landlord to pay her €7,000 in compensation.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Valerie Murtagh has found that the un-named landlord discriminated against the woman by breaching his obligations under the Equal Status Acts when he refused to participate in the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.
Ms Murtagh said that she found the tenant “to be a cogent and credible witness” and in contrast, found the landlord “to be inconsistent in his evidence”.
Ms Murtagh stated: “I am cognisant of the complainant’s documented health issues and that she and her family have suffered considerable stress and anxiety as a result of the landlord’s failure to accept rent supplement/HAP.”
In her evidence, the tenant stated that the landlord’s refusal to participate in the HAP scheme was having “a detrimental effect on her mental health causing increased stress levels, panic attacks and anxiety in fear of being left homeless with a two-year-old daughter”.
She stated that her medical condition has been recognised and diagnosed by her GP and she was prescribed anti-depressant medication.
The tenant contended that “all of this could have been avoided if the landlord had not discriminated against us in relation to the HAP scheme”.
The landlord served eviction notice on the tenant on July 16, on the basis that a family member of his would require the property.
The Residential Tenancies Board found the termination notice to be invalid but the landlord has appealed this decision.
The family first approached the landlord in November 2017 to see that if he would enter the HAP scheme and provided him with the relevant documentation.
A couple of weeks later, the landlord replied and stated that after discussing the matter with his sister, he would not accept HAP payments.
The tenant then went to Threshold who advised her that it was illegal for a landlord to refuse to participate in HAP.
Late, the landlord stated that he would accept HAP but filled out the forms incorrectly.
In June 2018 the landlord told the tenants that his sister is not willing to accept HAP and that she is considering moving back into the property when the lease expires on August 4th 2018.
The tenant told the hearing that the landlord was doing everything to push them out of the property so he does not have to accept HAP.
The tenant stated that she had pleaded with the landlord to accept HAP to help them through the tough financial time they were then experiencing.
The landlord denied that he discriminated against the tenants on the HAP ground.
He stated that the property in question was the family home where he grew up and where his late father lived into his old age. He states that when his late father died in June 2016, he left the property to himself and his sister.
The landlord’s sister decided that she didn’t want to move in and the landlord stated that his daughter wanted to move into the home.
The landlord contended that he has no issue with HAP or never did. He stated that the real problem is that he wanted the old family home back and that the tenants had a problem with this.
The landlord stated that to make matters worse, his daughter could not wait for the issue to be sorted out and has now moved out and is living in a flat in Dublin, a situation he wanted to avoid
Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, Mike Allen said on Monday: “We welcome the growing number of cases where tenants who need to avail of HAP have taken cases to the WRC and had their rights upheld.
He said: “It is important that these cases are highlighted to landlords and agents so that they are very clear about their obligations and the consequences of failing to meet them.
He said: “Due to the landlord’s behaviour the tenant lost out on approximately 10 months of HAP support, which for most tenants would amount to more than the €7,000 allowed."
Mr Allen pointed out: “So while the tenant was brave enough to take the case, went through the considerable distress of the situation and won, they may well be worse off than if the landlord had obeyed the law in the first place.