Cases of discrimination by landlords against tenants in receipt of rent supplement or the housing assistance payment (HAP) almost doubled this year compared with last year, figures from housing charity Threshold indicate.
In the first seven months of this year Threshold received 70 reports from tenants of landlords refusing to accept HAP, compared with 63 for the whole of 2020 – figures they believes are “only scratching the surface” given that most tenants would not bother reporting.
Threshold says there “is significant discrimination against HAP tenants and a stigma around taking on a tenant who is in receipt of a State support” – despite the such discrimination being illegal under the Equal Status Acts.
The 63 cases last year accounted for the fewest since Threshold began tracking cases. The charity puts this down to Covid restrictions which meant landlords were more ready to accept HAP, says policy officer, Ann-Marie O’Reilly.
“The reprieve was short-lived though, especially in the Dublin region. We fear cases will only increase in coming months.”
Among cases last year two-thirds were sitting tenants, some of whom had been in situ for up to eight years, the charity said in a report to the Oireachtas committee on housing. "In spite of being good tenants, having a relationship with the landlord and the Covid-19 restrictions, their landlord still refused HAP.
“They were seeking HAP largely due to a reduction in income or unemployment,” says the report.
“The tendency of landlords to refuse HAP or rent supplement to sitting tenants is surprising but already observed by Threshold our 2019 research.”
Threshold is calling on the department of housing to commission an enquiry into the reasons landlords and estate agents refuse to accept HAP and the circumstances in which this occurs.
“This would lead to a better understanding of the changes required to ensure HAP is a real option for people seeking accommodation.”
Among changes needed immediately are that the HAP rent be paid to landlords by local authorities from the date of application as opposed to the date of processing, and not a month in arrears.
“Placing tenants in arrears undermines the legislative basis which gives a tenant security of tenure. A landlord is entitled to evict a tenant for rent arrears,” it points out.