'The landlord wanted couples only' - Estate agent has to pay €3,000 after discriminating against woman
A Dublin-based estate agent has been ordered to pay €3,000 to a single mother after being found to discriminate against her status when renting an apartment.
This follows the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ordering the unnamed licensed estate agent to pay the equivalent of two months' rent to the woman after telling her 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. Last year, the woman was looking for somewhere to live with her toddler.
On April 17, 2016, she saw a two-bedroom apartment for rent and emailed the letting agent to state: "I'm a single mum with one toddler. I'm looking to rent using the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme. Could you let me know if this would be agreeable. Thank you."
In reply, the estate agent stated: "HAP is acceptable but the landlord is looking for a couple here I'm afraid, apologies on this. Kind regards."
Outlining the woman's evidence to the WRC, the report states "for her the message was clear; the landlord wanted couples only and she, as a single mother, had no chance of getting the apartment; the email was a 'firm no'".
The estate agent strongly denied discrimination and the company representative interviewed the author of the emails and said there was no intention to discriminate.
The WRC said those words used by the letting agent that the landlord was looking for a couple "were sufficient to establish a prima facie case that prohibited conduct took place".
On the WRC ruling, Focus Ireland spokesman Roughan Mac Namara said: "In the current housing crisis it is crucial that all households, regardless of their make-up, are able to access the private rental market on a level playing field.
"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."
Chief executive of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers Pat Davitt said the estate agent was wrong and the WRC was correct to find the agent discriminated against the woman.