by Gordon Deegan
A property firm has been ordered to pay €12,000 to a family who lost their home after their landlord refused to accept rent allowance payments.
In the discrimination case under the Equal Status Act, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Pat Brady said that the eviction notice served on the family was a direct consequence of the family’s application for the landlord to be part of the (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme.
The tenant brought HAP forms from the local authority to the property company, who was acting on behalf of the landlord on March 29th last year and the next day, the tenant was given notice to quit the property.
The HAP scheme facilitates rent allowance payments to be made and in the case, Mr Brady has ordered a property firm acting on behalf of the landlord to pay over the €12,000 to the tenant.
Mr Brady said that the lack of any appreciation by the property firm of its legal responsibilities in the matter, and the attempts to evade them “were quite astonishing”.
He said: “The law is quite clear and agents must consider their liability for breaches of the law before seeking to plead that they are simply carrying out the landlord’s instructions. This will not be sufficient to evade their responsibility under the legislation.”
He said: “This is a very serious case. The applicant was denied the possibility of holding on to his home because the landlord refused to sign the HAP application form. The explanation at the hearing that this was a short term let is not credible. The complainant had been a tenant since January 1st 2016.”
Mr Brady said that the matter of the HAP application was first raised with the property firm on March 17th.
He said: “By a most extraordinary coincidence the complainant was given notice of an increase in his rent three days after he brought this HAP application to the attention of the respondent, and after the landlord declined to sign the HAP application.”
On March 29th, the tenant sent an email to the property firm stating that he would not be in a position to pay April’s rent due to his inability to apply for HAP.
Mr Brady stated: “The following day, in what again must also be seen as something of unusual timing, the notice of termination of the tenancy was received."
Mr Brady commented: “It is also rather odd that a Landlord would seek to increase the rent if he intended to dispose of the property, which was the reason stated for the termination of the lease.”
Mr Brady stated that “it is quite clear that the termination of the complainant’s lease was a direct consequence of his proposed application for HAP, and therefore a breach of the Act”.
Mr Brady said that the breach was serious “and this is reflected in the level of my award which is equivalent to twelve month’s rent at the level to which it was raised by the landlord”.