Father wins case against agent that reneged on deal over Hap payment

Man awarded €8,500 after property he agreed to rent was given to someone else

The Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer said the letting agency showed  ‘staggering disrespect for a statutory tribunal’. File photograph: Alan Betson

The Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer said the letting agency showed ‘staggering disrespect for a statutory tribunal’. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

A father who challenged a letting agency after it reneged on an agreement to let him a property on discovering he was a Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) recipient, has won a discrimination case at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and has been awarded €8,500 in compensation.

The 32-year-old shared custody of his then two-year-old daughter with his former partner when, in spring 2019, he moved to Dublin for work.

Having spent the first month staying with friends, finding housing so he could have his daughter to stay was a priority. He saw a property within his Hap budget of €1,500 a month on a website and arranged to view it. Having done so, and having sent his references, the agent agreed to let him the property.

He got an email asking him to pay a deposit, a month’s rent and telling him he could move in “straight away” once contracts were signed.

The man transferred the deposit and was asked when he could sign contracts, collect keys and pay a month’s rent.

The man responded telling the agent he was on Hap, that the rent would be paid from the time he signs the Hap forms, which he would bring the following day.

According to the WRC judgment: “The letting agent, Ms A, phoned him and said that he ought to have mentioned his Hap status sooner as the landlord did not like Hap.

“The complainant sought to counter this exclusion and eventually Ms A agreed to the tenancy on payment of the first month’s rent up-front. He paid the amount on April 30th, 2019.

He called to the office the next day to sign the contract and pick up the keys. “Following a five-minute period, an agent informed him that the landlord had allocated the property to someone else. His Hap form was returned to him.”

The man was “aghast” and “faced with the immediate challenge of not being able to provide a base to host his daughter and he faced losing her. His mental health suffered greatly as a result, says the judgment. He had been through a difficult time and was trying to start afresh.

“As a direct consequence of walking into the respondent premises on April 30th, and experiencing the outright rejection of his agreed tenancy, he experienced an emotional setback and trauma which caused him to leave his job, suffer increased anxiety, move home and a complete withdrawal from the world. This has taken him a considerable period to recover from. He contended that he was treated badly simply because he was a Hap client.”

In June 2019, the man filed a complaint to the WRC under the Equal Status Act. The letting agent’s solicitor sought and was granted a postponement of the hearing until February 2020.

On January 24th, 2020, the agent’s side offered the man €1,400 and told the WRC their side would not be available to attend a hearing on the matter.

“Despite a firm invitation to apply for an adjournment, the respondent neglected to engage further with the WRC. I found this to amount to a staggering disrespect for a statutory tribunal by the respondent,” said the adjudication officer in his report.

“I am satisfied that this turn of events was directly attributed to the complainant’s disclosure of his Hap status,” he decided, and ordered that the man be paid €8,500 compensation by the letting agent.

“To have a housing need carries a certain vulnerability . . . Hap is a stop gap between homelessness and housing and is an empowerment for tenants and a commercially sound transaction for landlords. A universal declaration of dislike of Hap coupled with withdrawal of service constitutes a blanket ban.”