High Court: Man who was refused short-term tenancy loses appeal in discrimination complaint



High Court
High Court

A man who was refused a short-term tenancy for a residential property has had his appeal to the High Court dismissed.

Finding that the Circuit Court had not erred on a point of law, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said that the complainant was dissatisfied with the findings of fact made with regards his discrimination complaint, but that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to entertain an appeal on the merits, and in any event, there was no basis for saying that the findings of fact were unsupported by evidence, unreasonable, or based on an incorrect interpretation of documents.

Background

In February 2017, Mark Copeland declined to make a short-term letting of a residential property to Olumide Smith.

The property was advertised on Daft.ie, and when Mr Smith inquired about the property, he said that he would be relying on a housing assistance payment (HAP) to pay the rent. Mr Copeland indicated that he did not want to “get into” a social welfare scheme for a six-week lease, saying that it would be “way too much hassle”. Thereafter, an email exchange ensued wherein Mr Smith informed Mr Copeland that refusing to accept tenants because of HAP was discriminatory as per the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015.

Mr Smith also sent an email stating: “Please what is your racial or ethnic origin? Mine is Yoruba.”

No genuine intention to rent the property

In August 2017, the Workplace Relations Commission heard a complaint from Mr Smith, who contended that he was unlawfully discriminated against:

  1. On the grounds that he proposed to rely on a housing assistance payment to pay for the proposed letting, and
  2. On the grounds of race.

The WRC dismissed the complaint, stating that Mr Smith was wrong to state that the local authority would pay the deposit, given that it is set out on the HAP website that the local authority does not pay for this. The WRC also explained that “those in receipt of HAP are required, save in certain specific circumstances to remain in the property for a period of two years”.

Furthermore, the WRC was concerned that Mr Smith was “guarded when asked why he was moving from his current accommodation” in Balbriggan where he lived with his three children, commenting that it was “simply not credible” that he would move his children out of school “to set up a home in Cherrywood in Dublin 18 for a six week period”.

The WRC concluded that Mr Smith “had no real intention of renting” the property, that the complaint was “contrived and disingenuous”. No evidence was adduced in support of the claim that Mr Smith was discriminated against on the grounds of race.

Dismissing Mr Smith’s appeal from the WRC, in the Circuit Court in July 2018, His Honour Judge O’Sullivan found that Mr Smith “had no genuine intention of availing of the short-term letting, and that the complaint was a ‘try on’”.

High Court

Mr Smith sought to appeal the decision of the Circuit to the High Court.

Mr Justice Simons explained that, under section 28(3) of the Equal Status Act 2000 (as amended), an appeal to the High Court is on a point of law only. He said the “proper procedure for making an appeal to the High Court pursuant to a statutory appeal on a point of law is prescribed under Order 84C of the Rules of the Superior Courts. The appeal is to be made by way of originating notice of motion. Crucially, the notice of motion must state concisely the point of law on which the appeal is made”.

While finding that the appeal in the present case did not comply with the requirements, Mr Justice Simons said that given the fact that Mr Smith was a litigant in person, he would take “the unusual step of addressing the substance of his appeal in any event notwithstanding the fact that the appeal is procedurally irregular”.

Having considered the detailed affidavit filed by Mr Smith, Mr Justice Simons said he was unable to identify any point of law amenable to appeal under s. 28(3) of the Equal Status Act 2000. Mr Justice Simons said that Mr Smith was dissatisfied with the findings of fact made by the Circuit Court but that the High Court did not have jurisdiction under s. 28(3) to entertain an appeal on the merits or overturn the findings of fact (save in limited circumstances).

Considering Stokes v Christian Brothers High School Clonmel and applying the principles governing an appeal on a point of law, Mr Justice Simons said there was “no basis for saying that the findings of fact made by the Circuit Court were unsupported by evidence, unreasonable or based on an incorrect interpretation of documents”.

Finding that the Circuit Court decision did not disclose any error on a point of law for the purposes of s.28(3) of the Equal Status Act 2000, Mr Justice Simons dismissed the appeal.

© Irish Legal News Ltd 2020