The High Court has dismissed a tenant’s appeal against a finding by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) that the landlord of a Galway property was entitled to terminate the tenancy.
The appeal was brought by Regina Fitzpatrick, who claimed that the board should not have upheld the validity of the notice to terminate her tenancy after landlord Sinead Brett said she would no longer accept rent in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
In his decision, Mr Justice Garrett Simons noted the landlord’s indication was given after the notice of termination of the tenancy of a house located at Roscaoin, Roscam, in Galway, had been given.
The RTB is a public body that regulates the housing rental sector.
Mr Justice Simons said the gravamen of the action against the RTB, in which the landlord was a notice party, was that the tenant was discriminated against under the 2000 Equal Status Act.
It was claimed the act prevents discrimination in the provision of accommodation on the grounds that a person is in receipt of the housing assistance payment.
It was also argued that the RTB is required under the 2014 Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act to take action to eliminate discrimination.
The court noted Ms Fitzpatrick, who represented herself in the matter, was one of two tenants of Ms Brett’s property.
In 2017 she entered into a tenancy agreement where the rent payable was €1,470 per month and a security deposit of €1,300 was paid.
In early August 2021, a warning letter was sent to Ms Fitzpatrick over arrears of rent of more than €4,200 due and owing at that time.
The judge noted that Ms Fitzpatrick apologised for this and said she intended to pay the arrears once she was paid an inheritance she was due.
On August 31st, 2021, a notice of termination of the 2017 agreement was served.
The matter went to adjudication before the RTB, which in early 2022 found in favour of the landlord.
Ms Fitzpatrick appealed that decision to a tribunal of the RTB.
In March 2022 the landlord said in a WhatsApp message to Ms Fitzpatrick that she would no longer be accepting rent in the form of the HAP.
In June 2022 an RTB tribunal upheld the early decision in favour of the landlord.
Ms Fitzpatrick appealed the tribunal’s decision on a point of law to the High Court.
Mr Justice Simons said it was “difficult to identify the precise point of law relied on” by Ms Fitzpatrick in the appeal and said the application should be set aside for several reasons.
These included that the argument raised by the tenant had not been raised before the RTB’s tribunal, so it could not be considered by the High Court, the judge said.
The judge said the tenancy validly came to an end in September 2021 and the landlord’s decision not to accept HAP payments was communicated in March 2022.
It would not have been open to the tribunal to consider the events of March 2022, the judge added.