A tenant has been awarded compensation of €10,000 over the refusal of his landlords to sign a form to enable him to receive a Housing Assistance Payment.
The Workplace Relations Commission ordered the landlords, Aideen McCormack and Stephen Murray, to pay the compensation to their tenant, Michael McNamara, after finding he had been discriminated against under the Equal Status Act.
The WRC upheld Mr McNamara’s claim that he had been discriminated against by his landlords because he was a tenant in receipt of HAP support.
He told the WRC that he had been a tenant since 2015 and notified one of them on November 27, 2017 that he had been approved for the HAP.
However, he said the landlords never signed and returned the landlord section of the HAP form to their local council as he had requested.
Mr McNamara said they had instead issued him with a letter terminating his lease followed by a further letter seeking a 48% increase in his rent.
He said one of the landlords had also refused to accept the HAP form when he tried to hand it to them at a hearing of the Residential Tenancies Board in October 2018 — a claim disputed by the couple.
The location of the property was not identified in the WRC ruling.
Mr McNamara said it was only after he had contacted the housing charity, Threshold, in 2020 who advised him to refer a complaint of discrimination to the WRC that the landlords finally returned the completed HAP form to the council.
However, the couple claimed an email sent to them by Mr McNamara on April 23, 2020, was the first time they had received the HAP form from their tenant.
The WRC heard the completed form was submitted to the council in July 2020 with the delay in returning it blamed on the pandemic and a claim by the landlords that Mr McNamara would not allow them to inspect the property.
In her ruling, the WRC adjudicator, Marie Flynn said Mr McNamara had provided the contents of a text message from Ms McCormack on November 28, 2017 in which she said she could not call to collect the HAP form because her child was sick and would ask Mr Murray to contact him about it.
The WRC noted that Ms McCormack had also emailed her tenant on March 14, 2018, asking him not to contact her again but to deal with a letting agent.
The WRC heard evidence that the letting agent had ceased acting for the couple in early 2018.
As Mr McNamara did not have a phone number for Mr Murray at the time, the WRC said the tenant effectively had no way of contacting his landlords.
It ruled that both landlords were fully aware since 2017 that Mr McNamara had a HAP form which they were required to sign and were reminded again in 2018 at the RTB hearing.
The WRC noted that Mr Murray had conceded he knew his tenant had a HAP form in 2018 but he did not pick it up as their relationship had become strained.
Ms Flynn said Mr McNamara was legally entitled to the HAP payment and it was not his responsibility to chase his landlords to sign the form.
Awarding the tenant compensation of €10,000, she noted that Mr McNamara had fallen into arrears on his rent because he was unable to avail of the HAP.