Landlords discriminating against potential tenants who use housing assistance payments

Eoin Ryan

For 54% of tenants in Ireland, relying on government support to pay their rent is a part of daily life. Surging inflation and the cost of living crisis have only made a bad situation even worse with rent at an average 1,567, an increase of 11.7% from last year.

Peter (37) is one of many fathers working full time and has been on HAP since 2018 to help cover housing costs. His landlord sold the rental he currently lives in and his family has to move out by the end of July. After starting his search for a new home in April, it took him until the end of June to find a new place to live in, less than a month from being forced into emergency accommodation.

Despite sending 200 applications out, he was only invited in 6 viewings, all of which chose a different person.

He told Meath South East News most rental agencies do not email back and any that have rejected his offer for various reasons.

“When I applied to one of those places, they said my income was not enough, and I said ‘apologies, but my HAP covers three quarters of that income that you require. My wage has also gone up as well as I got promoted. SO the money was clearly there… but they were telling me I couldn’t afford it, so I went back to tell them to take a look at this again. 

“When they went back and took a look at this, the answer I got then was ‘sorry there are too many applications’ to which I responded ‘but I was already on that list when I went to the viewing so how could there be too many applications when I was there in front of other people.’

When discussing this, he said that “from experience first hand, that kinda shows that that’s an old school method of picking and choosing, which shouldn’t be the fact.”

It is illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants on the grounds they are on HAP, but tenants reliant on housing assistance are routinely refused and victimised.

According to the report ‘Housing Assistance and Discrimination – A Scoping Study on the ‘Housing Assistance Ground’ under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018’, discrimination is perpretrated in the housing market by private landlords, letting agents and advertisers alike.

Landlords did not directly refuse HAP payments but used more ‘subtle’ ways to discriminate when choosing their tenants. For example, landlords would ask potential tenants about what source of income they will use to pay the rent. If they inform the potential landlord the rent will be paid via HAP, they will not hear back from the landlord or estate agent.

Discrimination against households in receipt of rent supplement or the housing assistance payment (HAP) has been illegal since 2016. This this act, queries to the commission related housing assistance have accounted for the largest, or second largest, amount of complaints related to discrimination each year.

There was 97 complaints made about discrimination due to housing assistance that were investigated between 2016 and 2020 by the Workplace relations Commission

Difficulties with landlords is not the only barrier to housing for those on housing assistance as Ireland gets more expensive to live in, especially in regards to rent and house prices..

Ireland is now the second most expensive country to live in and the cost of housing is 88% higher than the EU average according to the latest Eurostat figures.

Rising costs means there is a larger proportion of renters reliant on assistance to pay for housing costs

“State supports, such as the Housing Assistance Payment, are not keeping up with the spiralling cost of renting a home,” Darren O’Rourke TD said.

Currently, there are only 820 houses in Ireland available for those on HAP, according to the latest Daft.ie figures. Meath only has 15.

For single people on HAP, only 182 rentals are available, less than ten in every county except Dublin.

For single people,there were less than 10 HAP properties available in every county except Dublin.

Availability for rentals accepting HAP are also very competitive as there is not nearly enough supply to keep up with demand. When Peter noticed an advertisement for a house for rent accepting HAP on a Facebook group called ‘Renting/ HAP/ Landlord,’ He attempted to get in touch as soon as the post showed but did not get any reply. He called the housing agency an hour after the post was made and was told they received over 1000 calls and emails related to the advertisement.

If Peter failed to get accommodation, he, his wife, and his child will all join the 1,366 other families residing in emergency accommodation.

The latest report by the Department of Housing shows 7,297 and 3,028 children were in emergency accommodation, a number which only continues to increase.

There are 2,334 more homeless people in Ireland than last year, a 29% increase, according to Focus Ireland. It also said child homelessness has increased by 41% since last year.

Such is the level of concern, the Simon Communities of Ireland have called on the Government to treat homelessness with the urgency applied during the Covid pandemic.

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