Five thousand people inquired about north Co Dublin house-share, discrimination case hears

WRC awards €1,800 to woman discriminated against by letting agent due to being on Housing Assistance Payment

Five thousand people applied to live in a single house-share in north Co Dublin when it was put on the rental market last year, the Workplace Relations Commission has been told.

The figure was put forward in evidence by an estate agent who has been ordered to pay €1,800 in compensation to a woman after pulling out of an offer to let her an attached studio flat in Swords when she said she was getting the Housing Assistance Payment.

“We were going for professional men at the time. We just felt it was the wrong time,” said Stephen McKinnney of 1st Class Lettings and Property Management Ltd, which was ruled to have discriminated against Karen Duffy on the grounds of housing assistance.

Ms Duffy said: “When Mr McKinney was showing the property he mentioned “professionals” … [that] there wouldn’t be people hanging around the house. HAP tenants aren’t always unemployed. I’m just on a lower income.”


The estate agent “more or less assured me the place would be mine” at the end of the viewing on May 30th, 2022 as soon as she sent the paperwork, the complainant said.

In emails opened to an equality hearing on April 24th last, Ms Duffy told Mr McKinney: “I’m a HAP tenant, hope that’s okay.”

‘That’s not okay’

Mr McKinney replied: “That’s not okay as the owner lives abroad and will not be able to sign the necessary forms for HAP.”

Ms Duffy later told him she had been in touch with housing body Threshold which “informed me any paperwork can be done online, via email” and she asked if the estate agent could you please inform the landlord.

“There was no reply to that email,” she said.

Mr McKinney said Ms Duffy should have said clearly on her application email that she was claiming HAP, as it is “the rules” but that she had not.

The letting agency boss was challenged on this claim by adjudicating officer Penelope McGrath, who said she was “not sure the obligation is on [Ms Duffy] to inform”.

Mr McKinney said that was his understanding but conceded that he did not know for sure and was basing his assertion on “dealing with other tenants”.

Ms Duffy said she had spent some 18 months up to May of last year stating in each application she made for a rental property that she was getting HAP.

“No-one would even give me a viewing,” she said, adding that the advice she got from Citizen’s Information and Threshold was not to mention it “because so many landlords discriminate against HAP tenants”.


Mr McKinney said there had been 5,000 inquiries to his agency for rooms in the property after it was advertised and that he gave viewings to around 100 people before shortlisting 25 or 30.

He said one in five of the tenants he dealt with were receiving HAP and that the payment “takes a long time to process”. He said he needed to have tenants ready to go in three or four days.

“Who we were going to go for [was] professional men at the time. I said I’d no problem finding another property [for Ms Duffy],” he said.

Ms McGrath asked if Mr McKinney was “saying you weren’t discriminating against her on the basis of HAP but that you discriminated on the basis of her being a woman”.

“That’s my job, I have to find the right tenant for the right property. I can’t house everyone. I can’t house 5,000 people,” he replied.

Ms McGrath said it a HAP related delay was not cited but rather it was “a flat denial based on HAP”.

“The landlord was half to blame because she hadn’t the right paperwork. I wasn’t prepared to wait six to nine months for a payment from HAP for a room,” he said.

Ms Duffy said it had only taken 10 days to have the payment processed for her current HAP tenancy.


Mr McKinney complained that it was “unfair” that Ms Duffy had taken him to the WRC, stating that housing charity Threshold had made representations on Ms Duffy’s behalf and he told it he would have “found her a place in Swords”.

Ms Duffy said she had no knowledge of any discussions between the housing body and Mr McKinney.

In her decision, Ms McGrath said “cannot accept” Mr McKinney’s suggestion that a tenant is automatically obliged to disclose receipt of HAP in advance, as this “would fly in the face of the reasons for including this ground in the Equal Status Act”.

Mr McKinney “closed down any ongoing discussion” as soon as Ms Duffy mentioned HAP, the adjudicator wrote, and made no attempt to suggest he was acting on the landlord’s instruction.

“This was his decision. The discrimination occurred at that point in time,” Ms McGrath wrote, upholding Ms Duffy’s complaint and awarding her €1,800 in compensation.