By Gordon Deegan
A property firm has been told to pay €5,000 compensation to a rent allowance approved prospective tenant after being found to discriminate against the man.
The fine is a multiple of previous reported awards made by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on landlords and property agencies over discriminating against people on rent allowance or approved for Housing Assistance Payments (HAP).
Today, the Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland, Mike Allen said: “This finding and the level of the award is very welcome.”
Parties aren’t generally named in such WRC rulings and Mr Allen said: “The anonymity of the landlords in such cases, even after an adverse finding, is an unconsidered side effect of employment legislation and should be reviewed to ensure a stronger deterrent effect.
Mr Allen said: “We are coming across an increasing number of landlords seeking ‘work references’ as a way of checking HAP tenants and this presents a major barrier to families trying to avoid or exit homelessness."
In the case, the prospective renter viewed an apartment in June 2017 after being approved for a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) or rent allowance in April of last year.
The man met with a representative of a property letting firm who did not say that there were others looking for the apartment.
The representative asked for a deposit and the renter said that he was HAP approved.
The renter said that as soon as he said that he was HAP approved, the property letting rep said that there was someone viewing the apartment.
The renter returned home to email the letting firm representative to stress his interest.
However, the property letting firm rep said that the apartment was gone, as another applicant had cash.
As a result, the wife of the unsuccessful renter checked online the following day and the apartment was still listed for rent.
The woman requested a viewing not identifying herself as the complainant’s wife.
The property letting agency rep told her that the apartment was available and he arranged a viewing the next day.
However, before the viewing could take place, the property rep spotted the complainant in a car nearby and the rep fled the scene and never contacted the couple after that.
In response, the property letting firm told the WRC that it has a large number of HAP residents.
The property firm said that what the renter’s wife saw online was a different apartment.
The firm said that it didn’t offer them the other apartment as it had to do due diligence on them. The firm rejected any claim of discrimination.
Making the €5,000 award to the complainant. WRC Adjudication Officer, Eugene Hanly noted that there was a conflict of evidence but found that on the balance of probability that the property firm discriminated against the complainant because he was a HAP-approved applicant.
He also found that on the balance of probability, that the property firm was influenced by the HAP application and declined the complainant’s application.