High Court reporters
The High Court has dismissed a tenant’s appeal against a finding by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) that the landlord of a property in Galway was entitled to terminate the tenancy.
The appeal, which was dismissed by Mr Justice Garrett Simons, was brought by Regina Fitzpatrick who claimed the board should not have upheld the validity of the notice to terminate her tenancy after the landlord, Sinead Brett, had said she would no longer accept rent in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
In his decision, the judge noted the landlord’s indication was given after the notice of termination of the tenancy of the house, located at Roscaoin, Roscam, in Galway, had been given.
The RTB is a public body which regulates the housing rental sector. Its remit includes resolving disputes between tenants and landlords.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Simons said the essence of the action against the RTB, where the landlord was a notice party, was that the applicant was discriminated against under the 2000 Equal Status Act.
It was claimed the Act prevents discrimination in the provision of accommodation on the grounds that a person is in receipt of the housing assistance payment.
It was also argued that the RTB is required under the 2014 Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act to take action to eliminate discrimination.
The court noted that Ms Fitzpatrick, who had represented herself in the matter, was one of two tenants in Ms Brett’s property.
In 2017, Ms Fitzpatrick entered into a tenancy agreement where the rent payable was €1,470 per month, and a security deposit of €1,300 was paid.
In early August 2021, a warning letter was sent to Ms Fitzpatrick over arrears of rent of over €4,200 which was owed at that time.
The judge noted that Ms Fitzpatrick had apologised for this and had said she intended to pay the arrears once she was paid an inheritance she was due to get.
On August 31st, 2021, notice of termination of the 2017 agreement was served. The matter went to adjudication before the RTB, which in early 2022 found in favour of the landlord. Ms Fitzpatrick appealed that decision to a tribunal of the RTB.
In March 2022, the landlord said in a WhatsApp message to Ms Fitzpatrick that she would no longer be accepting rent in the form of the HAP.
In June 2022, an RTB tribunal upheld the early decision in favour of the landlord. Ms Fitzpatrick appealed the tribunal’s decision on a point of law to the High Court.
Mr Justice Simons, who said it was “difficult to identity the precise point of law relied on” by Ms Fitzpatrick in the appeal, said the application should be set aside for several reasons.
These including that the argument raised by the tenant in the appeal had not been raised before the RTB’s tribunal, and therefore could not be considered by the High Court, the judge said.
An appeal against an RTB tribunal’s decision can only be made on a point of law arising from the determination under appeal, the judge said.
The judge added that the tenancy had validly come to an end in September 2021, and the landlord’s decision not to accept HAP payments was communicated in March 2022. It would not have been open to the tribunal to consider the events of March 2022, the judge added.
Mr Justice Simons said he had also refused a request made to the court by a friend of the application to adjourn the case, when it came before him earlier this month.
Ms Fitzpatrick the court said had sought a three-month adjournment on medical grounds. The judge said after considering the matter, and in the interests of justice he refused the adjournment.
The only evidence put before the court in support of the adjournment was a report from Ms Fitzpatrick’s GP which he said did not express address the issue if her medical condition affected the tenant’s ability to participate in legal proceedings.