Rent allowance tenants face delays over complaints hearings

Kieran Mulvey says plight being ‘off-loaded’ on to Workplace Relations Commission

Tenants receiving State rent allowances who allege they have faced discrimination by landlords will not have their complaints heard until next year, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has said.

Director general of the WRC Kieran Mulvey said the plight of vulnerable tenants was being inappropriately "off-loaded" on to his organisation.

Since January 1st, people in receipt of housing assistance, rent supplement, or other social welfare payments can no longer be discriminated against by landlords because their rent is paid by the State.

Emily Logan, chief commissioner Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said landlords are still declaring that they will not accept rent supplement tenants.

The IHREC has initiated a campaign to inform prospective tenants who are discriminated against that they can take a case to the WRC, which can make a maximum award of €15,000.

However, Mr Mulvey said the WRC was not resourced or equipped to handle these complaints . “We’ve had 5,000 employment law cases since we were established last October. We’ve had a strike announced practically every week since Christmas. Our staff are not trained in matters in relation to the provision of social housing, we hardly have the capacity to hear the case we’re hearing at the moment .”

Mr Mulvey said he had been involved in consultation with the Department of Justice in 2014, prior to the establishment of the WRC, but had objected to tenancy issues being dealt with by the new body. “We are not the appropriate body for this, this is not a workplace issue.”

Since then, he said the WRC was not contacted about the matter. Equally, he said he had not been told that the IHREC was to launch an information campaign.

“Since October 1st when we were set up, nobody has sat down with us and nobody has written to us. Nobody has told us what we have to put in place to give effect to this, or has told us how we deal with issues of data protection. Do we have access to the files of the Department of Social Protection? Do we have access to the files of the Private Residential Tenancies Board?”.

Landlord/tenant disputes should be dealt with by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) he said. "This was an off-load on to the Workplace Relations Commission."

Condemning the decision as “ poorly thought-out ”, Mr Mulvey said: “The Department of Justice found a handy home and ignored all rational arguments.”

Complaints from tenants will not be heard until next year, he said. “We will have to tell these vulnerable people that they will be going to the back of the queue. If we got a complaint today from someone of rent supplement, they won’t be heard until next year and what good is that to someone who’s trying to get a home”

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said there had been “ongoing consultation with the Workplace Relations Commission in the development of this legislation”. The IHREC said it would not make a comment.

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin is an Irish Times journalist