Landlord ordered to pay Latvian renter €12,000 after refusing her rent allowance

Landlord ordered to pay Latvian renter €12,000 after refusing her rent allowance

A veteran landlord has been ordered to pay a renter €12,000 compensation after he was found to have refused her rent allowance because she is Latvian and relies on social welfare supports.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudication Officer, Ewa Sobanska has ordered landlord, David McCarthy to pay Valerie Enners the €12,000 after finding that he discriminated against her on the race ground under the Equal Status Act when refusing to accept Ms Enners's Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme towards her rent.

Ms Sobanska also ordered Mr McCarthy to pay the €12,000 - the maximum allowed is €15,000 - after finding that he also discriminated against Ms Enners on the housing assistance ground when refusing to accept her HAP scheme payment.

Ms Sobanska stated that Mr McCarthy’s refusal to participate in the HAP Scheme has had the effect of placing Ms Enners “in a detrimental financial situation”.

Ms Sobanska stated: “I am satisfied that it exacerbated the distress she suffered and the quantum of the compensation should reflect that.”

Ms Enners told the WRC that Mr McCarthy’s acceptance of the HAP scheme payment “would have reduced the impossible financial pressure she suffers”.

Ms Enners claimed that Mr McCarthy left her in a position where she could not avail of the HAP scheme for a period of over 23 months.

She stated that as a result, this had a damaging effect on her family, both financially and personally.

Ms Enners asserted that, as she was unable to avail of the HAP Scheme, she had to meet the shortfall with loans.

In support of Ms Enners's case at the WRC, an Irish neighbour of Ms Enners gave evidence to state that she commenced renting from Mr McCarthy in October 2016 and Mr McCarthy completed the necessary HAP forms for her at the time and that she has been in receipt of HAP since.

As part of her case, Ms Enners presented audio evidence where she recorded on a mobile phone a conversation she had with Mr McCarthy.

During this conversation Mr McCarthy made statements to the effect that he would sign the forms but the Local Authority won’t take it.

At the WRC hearing, Mr McCarthy argued that he has tenants of some 20 different nationalities renting.

He also claimed that he has 33 HAP recipient tenants.

Mr McCarthy exhibited a spreadsheet showing that 9 out of 17 units in the estate Ms Enners resides at are occupied by non-Irish nationals - seven different nationalities.

Mr McCarthy also stated that he has 35 years of experience as property landlord.

He stated that he has a number of tenants on social welfare and various rent allowances.

He said that he had no reason not to sign Ms Enners' HAP forms. In respect of the allegation of race discrimination, Mr McCarty stated that there are probably about 20 different nationalities renting property from him.

He argued that as long as they are respectable and pay the rent he has no problem with that. He noted that Mr Enners is a “good person” and he has “no issue” with her.

Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland, Mike Allen said today: "Focus Ireland welcomes the outcome of this case which adds to a growing body of case law in which tenants have demonstrated that their landlords have discriminated against them because of their reliance on social welfare supports.

"The fact that the penalty in this case is near the maximum allowable shows an increasing willingness of the WRC to use its powers and reflect the harm that is done to tenants by this form of discrimination. Greater awareness of such cases will be of benefit both to tenants and landlords."

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