A WOMAN ON rent supplement payments who was “placed under severe financial pressure” as a result of an eviction row has been awarded €5,000 by the Workplace Relations Commission.
The complainant claimed that she informed her landlord when entering the lease that she was entitled to rent supplement and that the landlord completed a SWA RS1 form, the application form for the rent supplement.
She claimed she had the option to extend the lease for a further year.
Rent supplement is a means-tested payment for certain people living in private rented accommodation who cannot provide for the cost of their accommodation from their own resources.
The tenant began renting the property from the landlord for one year from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2017.
On 13 August 2016, the tenant received a notice of termination of the lease, which accused her and her partner of multiple breaches of the lease. She denied this.
On 30 August 2016, the landlord carried out viewings at the apartment without their consent, the complainant’s case detailed.
The tenant claimed she found the property being advertised on Daft.ie by the landlord and that the landlord called to the apartment and left a threatening voicemail saying he has the right to end the tenancy within the first six months.
She then lodged a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Board over the termination notice. The notice was found to be invalid. The tenant claimed she discovered the landlord denied signing the SWA RS1 form.
She alleged the landlord notified the Department of Social Protection that the tenancy was ending on 16 September 2016.
The tenant received a further threatening letter from the landlord saying she would be responsible for losses incurred by new tenants who were planning to rent the apartment in October 2016, she claimed.
The initial notice of termination was withdrawn by the landlord. The Department of Social Protection sought verification from the landlord that he signed the SWA RS1 form.
The tenant received another notice of termination in November outlining that the lease would end on 31 December 2016. The Department of Social Protection advised the landlord that the rent supplement would only be accepted until that date.
The tenant lodged a further complaint with the RTB and the notice was deemed invalid.
On 2 January at 4am, the tenant received an email from the landlord serving a 14-day warning notice of rent arrears. The delay in paying rent on the first of the month was due to a bank holiday, the complainant alleged.
The Department of Social Protection then informed the complainant that due to the landlord denying he signed the SWA RS1, rent supplement could not be paid. An appeal was lodged with the Department, who refused to pay rent supplement for 1 February 2017.
On 15 February 2017, the tenant received a third notice of termination. This was subsequently withdrawn on 8 March 2017. The tenant advised the landlord of their intention to remain in the apartment under S195 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 in April 2017. This was disputed by the landlord.
The complainant received the signed SWA RS1 form on 16 April 2017 filled out by the landlord for the following year’s rent supplement.
However, they received a fourth termination notice on 5 May 2017 that the property was required for the landlord’s brother. This notice and the one from November were deemed invalid by the RTB.
The tenant’s case read: “The complainant denies all allegations of breach of tenancy obligations. She found the actions of the landlord hugely distressing and distracted from her new start-up business.
“This put a lot of pressure on her professional and personal life requiring extensive visits to the Dept of Social Protection, appeals and consequent lack of attention to her business. She suffered from stress-related health problems.”
The complainant lodged a complaint of discrimination to the WRC on 4 August 2017.
The landlord said the lease commenced on 1 May 2016.
He claimed that shortly after, he began receiving serious complaints from different neighbours in the building, and that this was followed by a formal letter from the management company detailing serious issues that were having a significant and detrimental effect on other residents of the building, outlining serious breaches of the lease.
- Creating a fire hazard on the roof.
- Parking in other residents car parking spaces.
- Damaging property with paint.
- Allowing dogs under their control to foul the communal areas.
- Running a dog-minding business from the apartment.
As a result, the landlord issued the first termination notice on 13 August 2016, effective on 13 September.
He claimed the tenant agreed to cease the running of the animal minding business, pay rent on time and facilitate viewings of the apartment so it could be rented from 1 October 2016. He claimed it was agreed between the parties that they would vacate the property at the end of September.
The landlord then advertised the apartment for rent from 1 October 2016 and said that it was to be leased to a couple moving to Ireland.
On 12 September 2016, the landlord claimed he was contacted by residents describing threatening and intimidating behaviour by the tenant’s father.
He also claimed he had difficulty arranging an inspection of the property to arrange a return of the deposit.
The landlord was informed that the tenants had raised a dispute with the RTB and he withdrew the termination notice following mediation.
He claimed there was further complaints from residents and the management company, and a further termination notice was issued on 21 November 2016.
He alleged that rent in January 2017 was not paid on time, which was the second time in six months, and the 14-day notice warning was served on 2 January 2017.
Additional letters were sent to the tenants requesting compliance with the lease to no avail, he alleged.
The landlord raised two legal objections to the case, arguing that the complaint was out of time and that all material raised in the complaint was previously presented to the RTB. These legal arguments were dismissed by the WRC adjudicating officer Davnet O’Driscoll.
“I find a prima facie case of less favourable treatment has been shown by the complainant due to the actions of the respondent in notifying the Dept of Social Protection on four occasions that he was refusing to accept rent, and notification of the termination of the tenancy to the Department,” O’Driscoll said in his findings and conclusions.
In addition, the respondent denied signing the SWA RS1 in 2016 on a number of occasions but then accepted that he did sign this in 2017.
O’Driscoll went on to add: “I find pursuant to S25 (4) of the Act that the complainant has raised a prima facie case of discrimination on the housing assistance ground contrary to S3 and S6 of the Equal Status Act, which has not been rebutted by the respondent.
Undoubtedly, the cancellation of rent supplement placed the tenant under severe financial pressure, caused great difficulty to pay rent, and involved her in numerous appeals to the Department of Social Welfare when compared to a tenant not requiring rent supplement.
O’Driscoll ordered compensation of €5,000 to be paid by the landlord to the tenant as compensation.