Tenant awarded €15,000 against ‘intimidating’ landlord who refused Hap

Landlord Michael Woodlock told tenant ‘we don’t do business’ with State’s housing assistance scheme

A “very intimidating” landlord said to have called to his tenant’s house looking for rent money after telling her that her housing assistance payments had “stopped” has been ordered to pay her €15,000 in compensation.

The tenant, Magdelena Kotecka, told the Workplace Relations Commission last month that she was able to meet the full rent sought by Michael Woodlock without housing assistance payment (Hap) for a time between 2020 and 2021 with the help of her terminally ill ex-husband.

She could not afford to keep paying when her ex-husband died in September 2021, but Mr Woodlock would still not sign the Hap papers when he was asked to the following January, the tribunal was told.

“We don’t do business with Hap,” Michael Woodlock told his tenant Ms Kotecka in a text opened in evidence before the equality hearing, where he failed to appear, and evidence was taken in his absence.


An advocate from housing charity Threshold told the tribunal that he had spoken to Mr Woodlock’s secretary the previous year and was told the landlord “wanted to comply but could not” as “Revenue would not issue him with a tax clearance certificate”.

The compensation order for the maximum sum permitted under the Equal Status Act 2000 was made against Mr Woodlock in a decision published on Tuesday morning on foot of a statutory complaint by Ms Kotecka – with the adjudicating officer in the case writing that she regarded the conduct of the landlord to be on the “upper end of the scale”.

The tribunal was told Ms Kotecka had been getting rent supplement in 2016 and was approved for Hap by the Department of Social Protection from February 2017, with her making a weekly contribution of €24.80 and her local council covering her rent of €119.90.

Her advocate, Owen Duggan of housing charity Threshold, said there was “no issue” for several months until, in August 2017, Mr Woodlock wrote to her and said the Hap payment was “going to be stopped”.

“It is with regret I have to inform you that unless you are in a position to continue the payments once the Hap payments have finished you will need to vacate the property,” Mr Woodlock wrote in a letter in that month, which was opened to the tribunal.

Mr Duggan said it was his client’s case that Mr Woodlock wrote to her repeatedly telling her he was “unable to get Hap due to his status with the Revenue” and asking her to either pay the balance herself or leave.

Ms Kotecka said she continued to pay her contribution of €24.80 directly to Mr Woodlock from September 2017 to April 2020.

After that, Mr Woodlock started calling to her door asking for “the full amount of the rent”, Ms Kotecka said in evidence, and she more than doubled what she was contributing to €49.80.

She said she found her landlord “very intimidating” and paid the full rent starting in May 2020 “because of the pressure” from Mr Woodlock.

Ms Kotecka said her terminally ill ex-husband helped her meet the payments, but that she “could not afford to pay the full amount” after he died in September 2021 and had to reduce what she was paying to €100 a week and then €50.

Mr Duggan showed the tribunal letters from the landlord, who maintained in them that Ms Kotecka’s tenancy was in “arrears” of €19,130 to date.

“She finds the entire situation extremely stressful,” he said.

In submission, Mr Duggan said Mr Woodlock “refused to engage” with him in January 2022 and “refused to sign” a fresh Hap application form sent to him at this time.

Mr Duggan said he took a call from Mr Woodlock’s secretary, who he said told him that “matters were outside the control” of Mr Woodlock as “Revenue would not issue him with a tax clearance certificate”.

The secretary told him her boss “wanted to comply but could not”, Mr Duggan said.

However, he said that although various solutions were discussed, and Mr Woodlock’s secretary undertook to discuss them with her employer, he got no further response from the landlord and his client filed papers with the WRC.

Adjudicating officer Niamh Byrne noted no appearance from Mr Woodlock for a remote adjudication hearing last month.

“The case officer called to make sure he was not experiencing any difficulties logging on. After the third attempt [Mr Woodlock] answered and stated that he was sick and would not be attending and did not appreciate calls from strange numbers, and hung up,” Ms Byrne noted.

She wrote that she was satisfied Mr Woodlock was on notice and “for his own personal reasons decided not to attend” – and continued to hear Ms Kotecka’s case.

Ms Byrne wrote that Ms Kotecka’s evidence had been “credible” when she stated that she found Mr Woodlock “very intimidating” when he called to her door in early 2020 looking for rent money.

The adjudicator added that there was “clear uncontroverted evidence that [Ms Kotecka] found herself in the situation she is in solely because she [was] in receipt of Hap”.

She found Mr Woodlock’s discriminatory behaviour was “at the upper end of the scale” and awarded Ms Kotecka the maximum compensation permitted under the Equal Status Act, €15,000.