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Saturday 19 October 2019

Tenants sue landlords for HAP refusals

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Housing matters, including tackling rogue landlords, account for almost a third of all cases handled by a prominent legal advice charity.

As the housing crisis shows no sign of abating, the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) Annual Report 2017, published today, highlights cases where landlords discriminated against tenants and refused to return deposits.

In one set of cases, brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), three "model tenants" were awarded substantial compensation after their landlord refused to allow them to claim rental assistance payments.

The cases are believed to be among the first to be adjudicated on since the Equal Status Act was expanded to prohibit discrimination in the provision of accommodation based on a person's eligibility for the housing assistance payment (HAP).

The WRC heard the landlord repeatedly refused to complete paperwork necessary for the tenants to facilitate access to HAP, a form of social housing support provided by all local authorities.

The refusal was made despite the fact there would be no financial loss to the landlord and the rent would be paid automatically by the State. Each of the tenants was under severe financial pressure and one was borrowing from relatives to meet rent obligations. The WRC awarded the tenants €14,977, €13,365 and €14,405 respectively and ordered the landlord to take steps to enable each of them to participate in the HAP scheme.

In another case detailed in the report, FLAC initiated proceedings in the District Court in respect of a landlord who failed to return deposits to two prospective tenants.

The tenants were eventually reimbursed lump sums of €2,400 each after a number of court hearings.

While most of FLAC's activity involves dealing with queries for legal advice, it also takes on cases it believes to be in the public interest.

In 2017, it had 103 case files, with the most prevalent issues being housing or landlord and tenant disputes (29pc), social welfare (19pc) and discrimination (16pc).

FLAC received 12,003 calls to its telephone information and referral line, with the main queries related to family law (25.9pc), employment (9.9pc) and housing (7.1pc).

A further 13,814 people received legal advice from volunteer lawyers at clinics run in conjunction with the Citizens' Information Service.

Family law (34.5pc), employment (15.8pc) and wills/probate (9.2pc) were the most common legal queries.

Irish Independent

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