Irish Republic warns Landlords on discrimination
Following letting agent fine of €3,000, after discriminating against single mother tenant, the Republic of Ireland government has warned its private landlords and agents against discriminating when selecting new tenants.
The fine was issued when the Irish Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ordered an estate agent to pay the equivalent of two months’ rent to a woman after telling her that the landlord was looking for a couple for the property.
Landlords are often “blissfully unaware” of anti-discrimination legislation when it comes to renting property, it has been claimed in the Republic, and there’s no reason to believe that it is any different in the UK.
Discrimination cases between landlord and tenant are pretty rare, but with the advent of Right-to-Rent legislation in England the incidence of such cases could increase.
In the Irish case, a letting agent was ordered to pay a single mother the €3,000 having been found to have discriminated against her lone parent status in the renting of an apartment – this was said to be the equivalent of two months’ rent – after the agent told the woman the landlord was looking for a couple for the property.
According to the Irish Times the single mother claimed she had been discriminated against under the Irish Equal Status Act on the grounds of her being a “single mother and not in a relationship”.
In the Irish Republic, The Equal Status Act forbids discrimination on nine grounds:
This Act prohibits discrimination on the following grounds:
- Marital status
- Family status
- Sexual orientation
- Membership of the Traveller Community,
The key one here being the civil status of the lady involved. The law states: “You are entitled to equal treatment whether you are single, married, separated, divorced or widowed, in a civil partnership or previously in a civil partnership.”
The Residential Landlords Association of Ireland’s director, Fintan McNamara, told the Irish Times that many landlords were not sufficiently aware of the Equal Status Act 2000.
He said he hoped the judgment of the WRC would create a “climate of awareness” among landlords about the law relating to the Equal Status Act as he suggested many were “blissfully unaware” of their obligations.
“Everybody should be given a fair crack of the whip,” he said. “People should be assessed on their merits. If they have a good track record of paying rent, then there should be no discrimination.
In the case of Irish welfare recipients, a contentious issue among landlords everywhere, Mr McNamara said: “You...
can’t discriminate that bluntly. There are 200,000 welfare recipients. To be fair the vast majority are compliant, but there are a disproportionate number that don’t comply and fall into arrears.”
Agents Douglas Newman Good’s chief executive Keith Lowe said the unnamed agency involved had discriminated against the single mother and her child:
“There is no way that a single mother and a toddler should be discriminated against like that. Any of my agents would be very upset if that was the case even if a landlord or an owner was telling them that is what they wanted.”
However, he stressed there was “no question” that landlords preferred those who could pay their rent themselves rather than through the housing assistance programme.
Although there are significant differences in Irish Republic and UK discrimination laws, UK landlords need to be aware that under The Equality Act 2010 it is illegal for landlords and agents to discriminate against tenants on the basis of what the Act terms “protected characteristics”:
- gender reassignment
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
Examples might include:
- Renting a property to some tenants on worse terms than other tenants
- Treating some tenants differently when setting policies regarding facilities. For example, these could include a laundry or garden access.
- Evicting or harassing tenants because of their race, gender, disability, sexuality or religion.
- Incorporate unreasonable demands in a tenancy agreement which would prevent a disabled person living in a property. A good example would be a landlord stating a ‘no pets’ policy and not offering to change it for a blind tenant with a guide dog.
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