Focus Ireland has welcomed a ruling where an estate agent has been ordered to pay €1,500 to a man on rent allowance after he refused to allow him view an apartment for rent.
In the case, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) made the award under the Equal Status Act after the estate agent told the man "no rent allowance accepted" after the man inquired about viewing the apartment.
The man said the estate agent's "no rent allowance accepted" statement constituted discrimination on the housing assistance ground.
The WRC agreed the man was discriminated against and has ordered the estate agent to pay him €1,500.
In response to the ruling yesterday, Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said: "This finding by the WRC and the fine imposed are very welcome and will help to highlight to landlords and agents that it is illegal to discriminate in this way. It should also give accommodation seekers confidence in challenging this discrimination.
"In our experience discrimination by landlords and agents against tenants who are in receipt of rent supplement is still widespread, and contributes to people becoming homeless."
He said: "When this form of discrimination was made unlawful last year we did not see any visible change in the attitude of landlords and agents. While many landlords are decent and accept people on the basis of their ability to pay the rent, some landlords have continued to discriminate against people in receipt of the rent supplement."
Counsel for the complainant in the WRC case highlighted during the hearing how important it would have been for this client to obtain the apartment in question, as he was living with his wife and child in quite cramped conditions, and the couple were expecting a second child.
The managing director of the estate agent firm argued he was acting under instruction from the relevant landlord.
He stated that the landlord had told him he would not be able to obtain insurance if he accepted a tenant on rent allowance, as the insurance company would not accept rent allowance as valid income and hence not cover the landlord for loss of rent.
He said he felt obliged to act on the landlord's instructions as, in his words, "he's the one paying me".
Chief executive of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, Pat Davitt, said that not to show an apartment to someone on rent allowance "is against the law".