Landlords are often “blissfully unaware” of anti-discrimination legislation when it comes to renting property, it has been claimed.
A letting agent was ordered to pay a single mother €3,000 having been found to have discriminated against her lone parent status in the renting of an apartment.
The Workplace Relations’ Commission (WRC) ordered an estate agent to pay the equivalent of two months’ rent to the woman after telling her that the landlord was looking for a couple for the property.
The woman claimed she had been discriminated against under the Equal Status Act on the grounds of her being a single mother and not in a relationship. No parties are named in the WRC report.
The Equal Status Act forbids discrimination on nine grounds, one of which is the civil status of the parties involved. It states: “You are entitled to equal treatment whether you are single, married, separated, divorced or widowed, in a civil partnership or previously in a civil partnership.”
Residential Landlords Association of Ireland director Fintan McNamara said many landlords were not sufficiently aware of the Equal Status Act 2000.
He hoped the judgment of the WRC would create a “climate of awareness” among landlords about the law relating to the Equal Status Act as he suggested many were “blissfully unaware” of their obligations.
“Everybody should be given a fair crack of the whip,” he said. “People should be assessed on their merits. If they have a good track record of paying rent, then there should be no discrimination.
“You can’t discriminate that bluntly. There are 200,000 welfare recipients. To be fair the vast majority are compliant, but there are a disproportionate number that don’t comply and fall into arrears.”
Douglas Newman Good chief executive Keith Lowe said the unnamed agency involved had discriminated against the single mother and her child.
“There is no way that a single mother and a toddler should be discriminated against like that,” he said. “Any of my agents would be very upset if that was the case even if a landlord or an owner was telling them that is what they wanted.”
However, he stressed there was “no question” that landlords preferred those who could pay their rent themselves rather than through the housing assistance programme.
The Residential Tenancies Board, which regulates the private rental sector, said it supported “any findings that assists in removing all forms of discrimination against tenants which may prevent them from accessing rental accommodation”.
Focus Ireland spokesman Roughan MacNamara said there ought to be a "level playing field" for those seeking accommodation in the current housing crisis.
He added: “We see that single parents can be particularly vulnerable so it is vital they are able to gain access to secure and affordable accommodation and no unfair barriers are put in the way. They must be treated the same as any other household seeking a roof over their head.”
Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers chief executive Pat Davitt said what the estate agent did was wrong and that the WRC was correct to find that the agent discriminated against the woman.