Landlords are breaking the law by continuing to turn away tenants who receive rent supplement and other forms of housing or welfare assistance despite the practice being made illegal at the beginning of this year.
The Human Rights and Equality Commission has stepped in to warn landlords of the legal prohibition and to advise tenants of their rights if they face discrimination. Since January 1, the Equality Act has been extended to outlaw discrimination against any person on the basis that they are in receipt of housing assistance.
That means landlords, or their letting agents, cannot include a no-rent supplement condition when advertising a rental property, or refuse a prospective tenant simply on the basis that they are in receipt of assistance.
However, Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the commission, said: “The commission is aware from accommodation websites and from members of the public that this practice continues and has impacted negatively on individuals and their families who require State support by excluding them from the rental market.”
A brief search of rental websites by the Irish Examiner yesterday also found the law was widely breached with many property descriptions including warnings that people on rent allowance or housing assistance would not be considered.
Ms Logan said: “We are concerned that landlords and accommodation advertisers may be unaware of this important change. Landlords and accommodation advertisers have a responsibility to ensure that the practice of discriminating against tenants and prospective tenants on the basis of being in receipt of rent allowance, housing assistance payments, and other social welfare payments is immediately stopped.”
Under the law, awards of up to €15,000 can be made to someone who has been discriminated against in this way with the landlord or letting agent footing the bill.
While the law cannot guarantee a landlord won’t be privately biased against a rent supplement tenant if they have a number of prospective renters, Ms Logan said it was an important development in the legal protections for tenants.
“It also marks an important move towards the recognition of a socio-economic ground in equality legislation. The commission would hope this protection can be expanded further into other areas such as employment and the provision of goods and services, where both poverty and discrimination contribute to social exclusion in our society.”
The commission is to meet soon with housing non-governmental organisations and specialist agencies to co-ordinate a public information campaign on the legislation.
It will also be writing to landlord associations and accommodation advertisers to remind them of their obligations under the new law.
Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against can contact the commission on 01 858 9601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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