Wednesday 20 November 2019

Anyone letting a property should have right to say who lives there

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ordered the unnamed Dublin-based estate agent to pay her the equivalent of two months' rent. Stock image
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ordered the unnamed Dublin-based estate agent to pay her the equivalent of two months' rent. Stock image
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Back in the day, when I was in the process of selling my apartment and trying to buy a house, the general wisdom was that I should keep the apartment and let it out.

Of course, the fact that such general wisdom tended to come from the kind of people who would also boast about owning four apartments in Bulgaria says a lot.

But I never had any interest in being a landlord. In fact, it always amused me that one of the main planks of Irish constitutional nationalism came from a resentment of landlords, yet what did we do when we got a few quid? We became a nation of... landlords.

Also, apart from any social or political qualms I may have had, I am an extremely lazy, useless person who wouldn't have the patience or skill to deal with irate tenants.

That would have left me with the option of having to deal with an estate agent and, really, life is just too short.

But even though it flies in the face of my usual attitude towards both these maligned groups, I have sympathy for the estate agent who was fined €3,000 because the owner of a property they were acting for only wanted couples.

A single mother and prospective tenant was informed of this policy and she went to the Workplace Relations Commission, which awarded her €3,000.

I have sympathy for the woman involved - how could you not? - but anyone who is letting out their property surely has the right to decide who lives there.

As I already mentioned, I'm hardly a cheerleader for the landlords of this country, and there is a place in hell for estate agents, but anyone operating a business or letting a property should be perfectly entitled to decide who they want to deal with.

This all goes back to the days of the now defunct Equality Authority, which was given statutory powers to punish any individual or business which wasn't suitably open and welcoming.

So, we saw dozens of pubs and hotels hit by discrimination claims when they refused to serve certain groups of people - that ranged from Travellers to people who weren't wearing the right clothes when they tried to enter a venue - and we entered an era where everyone thought they had a right to go wherever they want and frequent wherever they want. They don't.

The owner of any establishment, whether it's a hotel or a house, has the right to decide who avails of it. I know a disgruntled reveller is not the same as a woman looking for a home, but if the owner only wanted couples, then that is their choice. The woman wasn't discriminated against because she was a single mother, but because she didn't fit the criteria the landlord was looking for.

That's tough. But so is life.

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