Pregnant tenant claimed stress that led to Caesarean section was landlord’s fault

Chartered surveyor Brendan O’Brien denies Megan Kenna’s complaint under the Equal Status Act 2000 concerning the termination of her family’s tenancy at an apartment in Howth

The landlord told the tribunal that the staircase in the apartment was unsuitable for a baby. File photograph: PA

A tenant who claims her landlord effectively terminated her lease because she became pregnant says her stress levels meant her child had to be delivered by Caesarean section.

“I was thinking about losing the pregnancy because of the stress … that is what is at stake here,” she told the Workplace Relations Commission.

Lawyers for the landlord fully accepted the medical opinion on the Caesarean procedure but disputed any action by him was the cause.

The landlord suggested to the tribunal on Tuesday that “entrapment” was at play in circumstances where he was recorded without his knowledge when he called to the apartment at Harbour Road in Howth on April 9th, 2022.

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“I’m not a villain,” the landlord told the tribunal.

Chartered surveyor Brendan O’Brien denies Megan Kenna’s complaint under the Equal Status Act 2000, in which she alleges her family’s tenancy at an apartment in Howth was terminated because of her gender and family status, along with harassment on the same grounds.

“The tenancy was ended and it was done expressly because [the complainant] had become pregnant and intended to start a family,” Ms Kenna’s barrister said – adding that even if the adjudicator found there had been no notice of termination the landlord’s actions in the affair amounted to discrimination.

Ms Kenna said that she and her husband, Waina Landauro, moved into an apartment in Howth in north Dublin in January 2022, and later informed their letting agent that she was now pregnant.

The tribunal heard Mr O’Brien called to the property by arrangement on April 9th, 2022, and told her: “I can’t allow a child in this apartment.”

He cited the safety of a galvanised steel spiral staircase to the apartment as a health and safety risk on the tape, which he called “wholly unsuitable” for Ms Kenna.

Unknown to Mr O’Brien at the time, the couple was recording the meeting, the tribunal was told.

Ms Kenna said alternative proposals for alternative accommodation put to her by Mr O’Brien – a two-bed apartment for between €2,000 and €2,100 a month or a one-bed at €1,650 on a month-to-month licensee arrangement – were unsuitable.

After further correspondence, the couple took it that they had been given notice of termination and left the property.

The landlord’s solicitor, Colm Hickey, highlighted that his client had been recorded stating: “I’m not trying to push you out the door” on the tape.

“Ms Kenna, you’re a highly qualified professional. Is it your habit to record people?” he asked. “No it’s not,” she said.

“You and your husband said things about declaring war and aggression. They’re strong words,” counsel said.

“That’s how I would describe the situation with Brendan O’Brien in my apartment that morning,” Ms Kenna said.

“I feel quite intimidated by this situation,” Mr O’Brien said in his evidence. “I’ve had one other complaint about a deposit return. I’m here to protect my good name as a chartered surveyor and a person.”

“The issue with the staircase – it’s 47 steps. If I was to get a buggy up those steps or a Moses basket – I wouldn’t sleep at night with a baby in it,” he said.

Ms Kenna’s barrister, Michael Kinsley BL said his client’s position was that she would have no difficulty with the stairs. He also opened correspondence from a consultant obstetrician at the Rotunda hospital stating that due to stress levels during Ms Kenna’s pregnancy, the child had to be delivered by caesarean section.

The respondent side said it fully accepted the medical opinion, but disputed that any action by Mr O’Brien was the cause.

“I was thinking about losing the pregnancy because of the stress … that is what is at stake here,” Ms Kenna said. “I’m really sorry for crying but I have to bring up my baby. Thankfully nothing bad happened here because of the situation Mr O’Brien created for me – being told I have to leave, feeling bullied and pressured by him,” she concluded.

After taking closing submissions from the parties, the adjudicator, Mr Heavey, retired to consider his decision in the matter, which is not expected to be issued for a number of months.