€12,000 awarded to black American tenant subject 'to hostile environment' by landlord's son

A black American tenant who was called ‘a black b***h and a ‘black c**t’ by a landlord’s son has been awarded €12,000.

In ordering the landlord to pay the money to the married mother-of-two, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Marian Duffy has found that the woman was discriminated against on the grounds of her race in her Equal Status Act complaint.

Ms Duffy pointed out that €15,000 is the maximum that she can award under the relevant section of the Equal Status Act.

She stated that the €12,000 award for the discriminatory treatment and harassment is appropriate arising from the serious nature of the abuse and harassment on the race ground as the mother believed it put the safety of herself and her family at risk.

In the case, the mother of two successfully claimed that she was discriminated against and harassed on the race and the housing assistance grounds by her former landlord.

In evidence, the mother recalled that on February 12, 2018, the landlord’s son, ‘Mr A’ blocked her car in a car park where she parked to take her children to the playground and started yelling at her.

The woman alleged that ‘Mr A’ then blocked the driveway to her home and she could not enter the property.

She alleged that he blocked her way for about 20 minutes and then started yelling profanities at her and called her a “black c**t” and a “black b***h”.

The mother said that she felt threatened and feared for the safety of herself and her children and reported the incident to the Gardaí.

The woman told the WRC hearing that she felt intimidated and that the safety of her children and family was at risk as 'Mr A' was living next door to her.

The woman stated that she had a very cordial relationship with ‘Mr. A’ for the first six/seven months of her tenancy but everything changed after her application for rent supplement to the landlord.

‘Mr A’ did not give evidence at the hearing and counsel for the landlord stated that any issues the complainant had with the landlord’s son were irrelevant as he is not a party to the proceedings.

In her findings, however, Ms Duffy said that she was satisfied on the evidence of the complainant that ‘Mr A’ subjected the woman “to hostile and an intimidating environment and called her offensive names which constitutes harassment” within the meaning of Section 11 of the Equal Status Act.

Ms Duffy found that the offensive names called to the mother referred to her colour and therefore constitutes harassment on the race ground.

Ms Duffy found that the complainant established a prima facie case of harassment on the race ground which the landlord has failed to rebut.

Ms Duffy noted that the incident in question was brought to the attention of the landlord in the complainant’s notification of her complaints as required under the Acts.

The married mother-of-two said that she and her husband rented a house for themselves, their two children and her mother from the landlord in or about May 8, 2017.

She stated that towards the end of 2017, it was necessary for her to apply for rent supplement as her husband lost his job.

The landlord signed the rent supplement forms on December 13 and on December 15, she received notice from the landlord to leave the property.

The tenant stated that after she received the notice to quit the property, she and her family were subjected to intimidating and hostile treatment from the landlord’s son, ‘Mr A’ who was the point of contact.

The tenant raised concerns she had over ‘Mr A’ to the landlord and in reply the landlord called her ‘street-brawlers’.

The landlord stated that the application for rent supplement did not influence the decision to terminate the lease and denied any discrimination.

He stated that the decision to terminate the lease was based on their rent payment record over the previous six months when they were in arrears on a number of occasions.

The landlord pointed out that the tenant was not evicted and remained in the tenancy until May 2018.

In her findings, Ms Duffy found that the complainant has also established that she was treated less favourably than another person who did not require rent supplement would have been treated.

Ms Duffy found that the tenant has established a prima facie case of discriminatory treatment on housing assistance ground which the landlord has failed to rebut.

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